Voting is underway for the RMT union’s election for a new deputy general secretary. Steve Hedley, currently the union’s London organiser, told Socialist Worker why he is standing.
“I'm a socialist, and a socialist outside the Labour Party,” he said. “But most of all I’m a trade unionist. I want to see a viable strategy for defeating the cuts coming our way in the rail industry.”
One of the major challenges facing the union comes from the McNulty report into the future of the railways.
“It’s just a privateers’ charter,” said Steve. “The report is meant to be independent but Roy McNulty gave the answers the government want to hear.
“The report recommends more privatisation even though it admits that a privatised rail system costs £1.2 billion a year more than a nationalised one. It’s not about efficiency—it’s about bringing an internal market into the railways.”
And as Steve knows all too well, McNulty’s cuts will not be the first.
“Look at London Underground,” he said. “They’ve got rid of 800 frontline staff already. They’re trying to get rid of catering staff, train guards and station staff.
“They want driver only operations—and Boris Johnson is even talking about bringing in driverless trains.”
So what strategy can beat these attacks? For Steve, the answer is action.
“Up to now we’ve taken a fragmented approach to combating these cuts. We need a strategy that is capable of defeating staff cuts that will take us back to the very worst days that followed British Rail’s privatisation.
“That means a political campaign and an industrial campaign across Network Rail and all the train operating companies. It means coordinated ballots for industrial action against the cuts that have already started coming in.
“But we need a political campaign as well. None of the three main parties supports the renationalisation of the railways. We need to build links with the public—explaining our safety case to people by taking out newspaper ads, for instance.
“The public is paying through the nose for public transport. London’s system is the most expensive in the world. People are paying 3 percent above inflation each year for a service that is getting steadily worse.
“If we don’t act now, we won’t recognise this industry in a few years time.”
Voting opened on Monday of this week and runs for six weeks.