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RAIL UNION leader Mick Lynch has a simple story to tell and he tells it with a disarming frankness that has left a half-dozen media personalities and Tory politicians wondering why they cannot lay a glove on him.
Railway bosses are paid millions in salaries and fringe benefits and the private owners of train-operating companies have plundered millions in profits on the backs of railway workers whose wages are increasingly unable to meet their living costs.
These things are transparently true and the combined efforts of the government and the monopoly media are unable to significantly shift the common-sense understanding of the British people that railway workers need a pay rise that offsets the murderous rise in living costs that has followed on a decade of pay restraint.
In this the British public, in its working-class majority, senses that a victory for the RMT will strengthen their own prospects of a pay rise.
Lynch makes the compelling point that railway profits are created by the work of railway workers. Challenged to deny he is a Marxist the RMT leader laughed off the question and in doing so wrong-footed his interlocutor that the swollen-headed presenter will approach future encounters with trade union leaders with great caution.
Lynch has rewritten the trade union communications manual by the simple expedient of telling it straight, knowing his facts in detail and presenting them with compelling force and good humour.
He also handed down a lesson to communicators of a Marxist disposition to keep it simple, tell it straight and stay on message to the millions of working people whose real-life experiences make them question the way Britain is run and are looking for answers to the questions which this fast-developing crisis of capitalism presents.
Working-class voices are so rarely heard on the mass media that the RMT leader’s round of media appearances are already the stuff of legend and feature in a host of viral social media posts while a compilation of his interviews is trending.
We can expect a renewed employer and government offensive drive home the ruling-class message that this capitalist crisis must be solved at the expense of workers’ living standards.
Since the 2008 capitalist crisis workers in Britain have been locked in a system of static wages. The nonsensical notion that it is workers “irresponsible” wage claims that fuel inflation cannot explain a present-day inflation rate of 11 per cent.
In the same moment that a Cabinet Office minister proposes to strip controls on City executive pay as a deregulatory measure to reduce the overall burden on business, the government proposes both limits on public-sector pay and a general pay restraint across the entire economy.
Here is the hypocrisy of government ministers exposed. Pay restraint for bosses is a burden on business but so are pay rises for workers. One rule for the rich, another rule for the rest of us.
There are any number of pay disputes in the offing. The government and employers are increasingly clear in insisting that pay settlements must be below the rate of inflation.
In holding to this line they will deploy the full range of measures available. Expect a heightened media offensive. Prepare for innumerable “red scare” stories. Anticipate intensified police action around picket lines. Plan for a lawfare offensive designed to enmesh workers and workers’ leaders in a legal nightmare.
Already there is a bid to set workers in pay disputes against pensioners.
This is a time for clear heads and unity.
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