Nurses and Royal Mail staff join rail workers at picket line outside Southend station

·3-min read
Action - Some of the striking workers with Mr Dent
Action - Some of the striking workers with Mr Dent

NURSES and Royal Mail staff stood in solidarity with rail workers at a picket line outside Southend Victoria Station as the biggest train strike for three decades got under way.

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers walked out yesterday as talks over pay and jobs hit the buffers.

It meant rail services on c2c and Greater Anglia were slashed to just two trains an hour into London in a shutdown mirrored across the country.

Both Southend Victoria and Southend Central stations were empty yesterday morning during the usually-manic rush-hour, as commuters followed advice and worked from home for the day.

Staff on strike formed a picket line yesterday, and were joined by nurses and Royal Mail staff from across south Essex who lent their support as the first day of disruption on railway began.

The strikes have also sparked a debate over the re-nationalisation of the rail service, with a number of Labour councillors from Southend joining the picket line.

The insisting that re-nationalising the industry would prevent future strikes and claimed it would improve safety, pay and working conditions.

Aston Line, Labour councillor for Westborough, said: “There was a really good spirit down at the picket line.

“There was a lot of positive responses from the public outside the station and there were also some nurses and postal workers who came along to show their support.”

Calling for the re-nationalisation of rail services, he insisted the strikes would not happen if this was the case.

He said: “It would help to see workers and people be put before profits, which we do not currently get.

“Our train lines are run and owned by firms in Europe and we don’t see the profits come back to help improve our services. I do think workers would support re-nationalising the service and I have talked to quite a lot of them about this too.”

The RMT union says turnout at picket lines across the country has been “fantastic” and shows “we will win”.

Tens of thousands of rail staff are taking action over pay, redundancies and reforms to working practices.

Matt Dent, Labour councillor for Kursaal, who also joined the picket line, added: “With the private firms running services it creates a monopoly and just becomes about making money. I think it comes down to how the money is being used. We have some of the most expensive train lines in Europe and in the last six years the money has not been used to maintain the lines. We need to see the money earned and profits being used to make the services better.”

Tony Cox, leader Southend Tories, was against the call and claimed staff striking yesterday were “holding the country to ransom”.

He added: “Looking at some of the wages some people are struggling on, train drivers get far more. I do not think we need to nationalise the rail service and do not see any benefit at all. I remember the old days of British Rail and how the fleets were in poor shape, I do not think it would help at all.”