The news that Network Rail are to challenge the RMT strike ballot, due to be carried out during the rush hours of April 6th – 9th, should surprise absolutely nobody. Yet again, the law is being used by employers to prevent staff from going on strike, regardless of whether or not the majority of workers involved support the strike being used.
In this case, 54% of RMT workers backed the call to strike, 77% backed action short of a strike. Bearing in mind that the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) are to come out on strike at the same time, and that the strike as announced will probably overlap with the next round of British Airways Cabin Crew strikes, the choice to strike is the right one.
Network Rail’s press statement declared their “responsibility to all our passengers and freight users, and to the country as a whole, to do everything we can to avert a strike. Talks continue and our aim is a negotiated settlement, but we must explore all avenues at our disposal and that includes legal ones.”
This is pretty telling; for Network Rail, the legal challenge has got nothing to do with the validity of the strike ballot, it’s simply a way of stopping the strike. As I mentioned in a previous article, this is becoming a feature of every single strike – regardless of whether or not the strike is clearly supported by a majority, employers challenge it in the courts.
Short of a judge ordering a re-ballot, I’ll be down on the picket lines come next week. RMT and TSSA members have been strong supporters of Unite’s recent battle on behalf of the BA cabin crews. The RMT regularly backs left campaigns like Youth Fight for Jobs, and is key to setting up socialist platforms across the country for this election. They deserve our support, because a defeat for one union represents a dangerous signal to all employers.