“Trade Unions allow workers to come together and discuss their concerns around overworking, discrimination and fundamentally push against societies oppressive systems which actively feed into our relationships to labour. It is a collective unit which aims to represent all workers’ needs,” – Chloe Alexandria

By Chloe Alexandria • 


Throughout the summer of 2022, Transport for London (TfL) and Network Rail staff have been protesting against the poor working conditions, low pay and increasing cuts towards the transport sector.1Network Rail and Transport for London workers to strike due to job loss and pay concerns – Intelligent Transport On Friday, 19th August, 400 overground and 10,000 Tube workers are set to strike for 24 hours.11A Tube Strike Will Affect The London Underground And Overground Network This Week – Secret London This movement is a part of the biggest strike action in 30 years since 1989, and is set to continue if employers fail to address their concerns.3UK rail workers stage biggest strike in 30 years – DW

The pandemic and government policies of austerity have had a huge impact on transport workers evident in a working environment which puts them on the front line for discrimination, bullying and Covid-19. RMT General Secretary Mike Lynch has been critical against “tory” politicians who he highlights have “cut £4 billion of funding from our transport systems – £2 billion from national rail and £2 billion from Transport for London,” according to Open Access Government.12What is the RMT rail strike all about? – Open Access Government As a result, transport workers’ wages do not reflect the rising cost of living in relation to the cost of food, childcare, rent, gas, petrol and water and electricity which are rapidly increasing. These are requirements we should not be expected to live without.19Cost of living crisis is ‘living nightmare’, say unions, after surprise inflation rise to 10.1.% – as it happened – The Guardian

In 2020, Belly Mujinga was a Congolese railway ticket office worker who was spat on by a commuter who declared they had coronavirus. A few days later, Mujinga contracted the virus and died on April 5th. Despite informing her employers that she felt unsafe working on the frontlines due to the virus rapidly spreading and her respiratory issues – her employers not only provided no (PPE) Personal Protective Equipment, but also disregarded her concerns even after she was spat on. The British Transport Police quickly closed this case and took no further action causing widespread outrage and protest. Not only is this a perfect example of institutional racism and failure to address violence against women within the British police force, but this is also an example of the day to day environment transport staff who are overwhelmingly Black and Brown are left to manage alone.8“The UK is not innocent”: Black Lives Matter, policing and abolition in the UK

British Trade unions originated during the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th century. The shift from agrarian to industrial conditions meant labourers were faced with inhumane and dangerous working responsibilities and low pay. Mirroring the current discourse of today, workers of the 18th and 19th century united to challenge the exploitation they faced at the hands of their employers whilst the media and government portrayed them as villains.9Claiming rights: Role of trade unions in the UK – Striking Women

Despite attempts to smear trade unions, such efforts have and continue to make a difference to our lives. Key examples include the 1963 Bristol Bus Boycott led by Paul Stephenson and the West Indian Development Council, in an effort to push Bristol Omnibus Company to hire Black and Asian drivers to their organisation. Despite being met with a lot of resistance, it was on August 28th, 1963, that Ian Patey announced that there would be no more racial discrimination in their hiring practices for employing bus crews which was the moment the “colour bar” to employment was overturned.13The Bristol Bus Boycott of 1963 – Black History Month 2022 This is a perfect example of the developments trade unions have made that are often overlooked and taken advantage of.18Covid-19 Protection and Enforcement – Charity So White

Here is why I support the Transport for London (TfL) & Network Railworker’s Strikes.

Trade Unions allow workers to come together and discuss their concerns around overworking, discrimination and fundamentally push against societies oppressive systems which actively feed into our relationships to labour. It is a collective unit which aims to represent all workers’ needs. The treatment of TfL and railway staff is then a huge matter of concern that in our current economy the “big guys” of transport refuse to improve the working conditions and increase the wages of its staff when some of the most racially marginalised communities make up their workforce. Our experiences of “Working classness”, low-income positions and precarious work often interlinks with race, ethnicity, disability, citizenship, sexuality, gender and gender identity. It is with this in mind, as a Black Caribbean working class woman, that I am pro-trade union and support workers that strike.

SOURCES

1) https://www.intelligenttransport.com/transport-news/136830/network-rail-tfl-workers-strike-june-2022/#:~:text=Network%20Rail%20and%20Transport%20for%20London%20workers%20are%20set%20to,through%20to%2026%20June%202022.

2) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-61861040#

3) https://www.dw.com/en/uk-rail-workers-stage-biggest-strike-in-30-years/a-62199746

4) https://inews.co.uk/news/planned-train-strikes-when-next-train-strike-dates-july-2022-explained-1721463

5) https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/article/section/civil-rights-movement/the-bristol-bus-boycott-of-1963/ 

6) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-61885519 

7) https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/belly_mujinga_foi_campaign_response.pdf 

8) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/343254658_The_UK_is_not_innocent_Black_Lives_Matter_policing_and_abolition_in_the_UK 

9) https://www.striking-women.org/module/rights-and-responsibilities/claiming-rights-role-trade-unions-uk 

10) Racism and Resistance in British Trade Unions, 1948–79 | SpringerLink 

11) https://secretldn.com/tube-strike-london-august/#:~:text=Why%20are%20rail%20workers%20striking,Arriva%20Rail%20is%20over%20pay

12) https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/whats-the-rail-strike-all-about-rmt-transport-inflation-government/138420/ 

13) https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/article/section/civil-rights-movement/the-bristol-bus-boycott-of-1963/ 

14) https://www.hbs.edu/ris/Publication%20Files/McGinnOh_GenderSocialClass_COPSYC_495_201708001331892896_75165458-c7d9-495a-b87b-cc77fe85ded1.pdf 

15) https://gala.gre.ac.uk/id/eprint/23759/1/23759%20PARSONS_Social_Justice_Race_and_Class_in_Education_in%20England_2018.pdf 

16) https://www.iser.essex.ac.uk/research/publications/working-papers/iser/2014-02.pdf 

17) https://www.jrf.org.uk/blog/its-not-right-four-million-disabled-people-are-locked-poverty 

18) https://charitysowhite.org/covid19-protection-and-enforcement

19) https://www.theguardian.com/business/live/2022/aug/17/higher-food-energy-costs-expected-push-up-uk-inflation-july-business-live

20) https://charitysowhite.org/covid19-protection-and-enforcement


Chloe Alexandria is a Black Caribbean writer from London. She regularly discusses a variety of subjects through writing and video essays online. This includes social commentary, film/tv reviews and reacting to events in popular culture under the YouTube channel, “Mate, I’m Not Magic.” Politically, Chloe identifies as a working class Black feminist, which ultimately informs her opinion on a variety of subjects.