Unite members at West Midlands Metro have joined the growing number of workers who are saying “enough!” The 53 days of strike action announced on the network shows the determination of Metro workers to win a long-overdue living wage.
Transport workers were rightly praised during the pandemic as key workers for keeping services running at risk to themselves and their families. But now those same TfWM bosses and Tory and Labour politicians on the Combined Authority claim there’s no money to give Metro workers a rate of pay to match the demands of the job.
Currently drivers and customer service representatives are paid just £10.50 an hour to keep the trams running over a gruelling shift system stretching from first thing in the morning to late at night.
Drivers have to navigate busy pedestrian areas of Brum city centre and main roads in Wolverhampton, and are held personally liable for any traffic collisions en route. Meanwhile customer service representatives have to deal with physical and verbal abuse and antisocial behaviour on a daily basis.
And all frontline Metro staff have had to bear the brunt of passenger frustration at the lengthy disruptions to service caused by TfWM bosses’ unwillingness to invest in fleet and track surfaces that are up to the job!
The union’s demand for a £27,000 salary for drivers and customer service representatives would begin to bring wages and conditions in line with those enjoyed by equivalent workers in other metro systems and heavy rail. These were won and defended through strong workforce organisation by sister unions RMT and ASLEF.
Currently they are involved in strike action of their own to defend jobs and pay. Co-ordinated strike action bringing together all the groups of workers currently fighting for a real pay rise could bring the country to a standstill.
This would show who really keeps society running day in, day out – not politicians or CEOs, but ordinary workers.
Bus drivers organised by Unite in Liverpool, Wales, West Yorkshire and elsewhere have already won inflation-busting pay deals this year, and determined strike action at West Midlands Metro has every chance of securing another victory.
The Socialist Party sends our solidarity to Metro workers fighting for a living wage, and look forward to doing all we can help build support for the strike.
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