Socialist Voice interviewed Daren Ireland, Branch Secretary 5 RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport) union over the government’s plans for a further onslaught on the railways.

SV: What would the implementation of the McNulty report mean?

Daren: Railways in the UK are 35 per cent more expensive to run since the mid 1990s compared to European comparators for equivalent railways in Europe. Some of the comparators McNulty used are in the public sector in Europe. One of the attacks he used

that will affect the conductor/Guard rate is he wants driver only operations. If that was implemented nationally 1,000s of our members would lose their jobs, and the travelling public

would be less safe.

McNulty wants a complete review of ticket office hours and they want to change schedule 17 requirements, which are the statutory means we can use to oppose closure or changes to opening hours of booking offices. We have 1000s of station staff who would be effected by these proposals. There have already been attacks such as on South West Trains.

The catering grades are already under attack due to the number of

subcontractors that are used because very few train operators employ their own catering staff; this means low wages and poor conditions of service.

There has been a recent attack by Cross Country, part of the Arriva group which is owned by the Deutsche Bahn, the German national railway company. They conducted a survey of passengers, where one question was ‘would you like more seats on the trains?’ Well of course everyone would like more seats, but they did not ask would you like more seats on the trains by removing the buffet car?

But Arriva Cross Country went ahead and removed the buffet cars that also affected our members.

McNulty recommends more part time staff, and proposes that new starters in the industry receive inferior terms and conditions we are opposed to this. On the question of maintenance there would be less frequent inspections and further fragmentation of the railway industry, although he does not say that the magnitude of fragmentation is one of the reasons why the railways are more expensive to run. The report calls for wanting to re-unite track and train, that would be fine under re-nationalisation, but not under piecemeal breaking up Network Rail and putting it under the control of private operators, that would lead to disaster.

Network rail was set up as a not for profit private company, and that was set up because of the chaos of rail track that allowed multi-sub contracts which caused disasters in such as the Ladbroke Grove rail crash in 1999 killing 31 people, Potters Bar in 2002 killing 7 and Hatfield in 2000 killing 4. The Potters Bar tragedy sparked a debate about whether private maintenance firms were paying too little attention to training and safety. There were at least 2000 subcontractor companies on the track at the time of these disasters probably more as subcontractors would themselves subcontract.

In 2003, Network Rail announced it was taking all track maintenance in house, ending the use of many private contractors except for large-scale renewal or development projects. In 2004 Jarvis admitted liability for the accident at Potters Bar. Steven Norris the ex-Tory MP and chair of the recent national rail conference in Liverpool was a director of Jarvis at that time.

McNulty wants to re-introduce the profit motive in the track. It will mean subcontractors on lower pay and lower conditions and ignoring safety issues. That is the way McNulty wants to attack conditions of our union members and undermine safety for passengers he is solely protecting the interests of the multi-national capitalist rail companies.

Network rail have just announced they want 4,000 redundancies over the next 30 years in the signaling grade and also a reduction in the number of staff as the electrical control rooms will be reduced from 13 centres to 2.

These are some of the areas that face an all-out attack on railway workers.

Whether you are a member of the train crew, station staff or catering work on the train stations, infrastructure or signaling, McNulty wants to get rid of you.

Splitting up Network Rail by vertical integration will weaken national pay bargaining and will be the end of any national rail strike. McNulty also says inflation rate pay rises must come to an end, this is being experienced by our members on First Transpennine, where the employer in cahoots with the Department of Transport has offered 2.2% based on the average weekly wage increase. This is a wage cut and has been rejected by the RMT and we are now balloting all grades for strike action.

This is the start of McNulty and we will fight it all the way,

SV: How is the RMT fighting this?

Daren: Every member of the union has received directly information about the attacks. There have been branch, regional and national meetings to discuss it, we organised a protest in Liverpool at the national conference and we are organising a mass lobby of parliament on 25th October. The consciousness of members is being raised all the time. We need mass leafleting of railway stations to inform the public.

Working class communities can be mobilised, the RMT needs to work with the trades councils and other unions to explain and stop this attack.