Tories: The real barrier to a modern railway

Martin Phipps discusses ongoing strike action, the Government’s inability to negotiate with key workers, and the Green Party’s mission to protect workers’ rights and the right to strike.

Sheffield train station
Sheffield train station

Image: Michael Thomas / Flickr / CC-BY-2.0

Martin Phipps

On Wednesday 1 February half a million workers, including rail workers, went on strike, making it the largest day of industrial action since 2011. In the face of 10 per cent inflation workers are striking for fair pay, as well as against a series of attacks on workers' rights: from the Tories' plans to ‘modernise’ the railways by removing staff from railway stations, and guards and drivers from trains, to attempts to worsen university pensions, and against the use of zero hours and temporary contracts, as well as against the Tory anti-strike bill.

Difficult to capture just how big the demo in #Sheffield at Dev Green is.

We're here defending our public services, in solidrarity with our teachers, our lecturers, our railway workers; the very right to strike itself!#TeacherStrike #ProtectTheRightToStrike #EnoughIsEnough

— /ə'leksi 'daɪmənd/🇵🇸 (@AlexiDimond) February 1, 2023

Unions have already come to an agreement with devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and elsewhere, and we now know that it would also have been cheaper for the government to settle the rail disputes. The continuing strikes are solely due to the Government’s ideological refusal to actually negotiate – and listen to the key workers they clapped for not long ago – despite their own calls for a high-wage economy.

The Government’s greenhouse gas conversion factors show that travel by train only produces approximately a fifth of CO2 equivalent emissions of an average petrol car with a single passenger[1]. While electric cars produce significantly less CO2 equivalent emissions from usage than petrol cars, this does not account for the carbon emitted in the manufacturing of electric cars, the particulate pollution they emit or that there is likely simply not enough lithium for everyone to swap to electric cars.

A regular, affordable, accessible, green rail network is critical to reducing the UK’s carbon emissions. The Government should be working with rail workers to deliver this, instead of refusing to listen to workers and putting forward proposals that make trains more inaccessible, as well as reducing passenger safety.

👊 Great to see so many in #Sheffield at @TUCYorksHumber rally defending the right to strike

❌ The Tory anti strike bill is an attack on all workers rights

@TheGreenParty would repeal anti strike & union law, & develop positive charter of worker and union rights with unions

— Martin Phipps (@MartinPhipps13) February 1, 2023

It was fantastic to see so many attending the TUC ‘Protect the right to strike’ rally in Sheffield on 1 February, which I was proud to attend with my fellow Sheffield Green councillors and members – supporting those on strike and opposing the regressive anti-strike legislation the Tories have been trying to force through parliament. 

The right to strike is an important pillar of workers' rights, and that’s why the Green Party opposes the anti-strike bill and would repeal existing anti-strike and anti-union laws.  The Greens would also establish a positive charter of worker and trade union rights – enshrining the fundamental right to organise and strike, drawn up in consultation with trade unions.

Solidarity with all of those on strike. 

Notes for editors:

[1] The 2022 UK governments greenhouse gas conversion factors for business land list an average petrol car as producing 0.17048 kg CO2e per km and national rail as producing 0.03549 kg CO2e per km passenger.