Employment

'Attitudes are changing in this country': On the picket line with Mick Lynch and Eddie Dempsey

The RMT boss told the Big Issue people are thinking more about collective values as a result of the cost of living crisis.

Mick Lynch, centre, at the picket line at Euston Station in London. Image: Eliza Pitkin / Big Issue

Union boss Mick Lynch says people in the UK are moving away from an “every man for himself” attitude and thinking more about each other.

The RMT chief was speaking to the Big Issue from Euston station amid a fresh wave of rail strike action across the UK.

Around 40,000 workers, including Network Rail employees, are taking strike action on Thursday and Saturday to stand against poor pay offers, calling for a pay rise in line with inflation.

On Friday, staff on London’s bus and Tube network will also walk out over pensions and proposed changes to work practices.

Lynch, the RMT’s secretary general, said: “Now, people are thinking about collective values and solidarity with each other. That’s a very strong message for the politicians in this country.”

With the cost of living crisis spiralling out of control, Lynch said people are feeling increasingly discontent.

“People are fed up with precarious work. They’re fed up with having no rights in the workplace. They are fed up of low pay and they’re also fed up of billionaires raking in profits while we’re struggling,” he said. 

“There’s a lot of money being made in this country, and it’s not being shared out with working people.”

Also speaking from the picket line, assistant general secretary of the RMT union Eddie Dempsey suggested that only through collective action, such as the strikes seen in recent weeks, can the public guarantee a better future for themselves.

“The politicians talk the way they do because they rely on apathy,” he said. “We’ve done huge things in this country. We’ve built the NHS. We ended a world war. We did those things in this country — working class people. We got education for people, we got the vote, we got the weekend. It’s not going to fall out of the sky and no one gave it to us. That took organisation and hard work.”

Interest in strike action and union movements has sky-rocketed in recent months, with Google searches for “join union” rising by almost 200 per cent in the week up to June 23.

It comes as inflation hits the 10 per cent mark for the first time in 40 years and could reach 18 per cent in real terms by the autumn. Meanwhile, energy bills look set to exceed £4,000 come January. So with workers’ pay packets continuing to slump, it’s no surprise that more people are coming together to take action.

Dempsey also spoke directly to younger generations, calling for them to take action to protect their own futures.

“If you want to be on your own, if you want to see people living in run down conditions with no support when they need it — that’s where things are going,” he said. “We’ve got to be the people that make that change.

“These politicians aren’t gonna do it. We have got to push them into it. Nevermind what the politicians are saying today, what you’ve got to worry about is what they’re saying tomorrow, and you’ve got to be the people that make them change their position.

“Get organised. Join a trade union. Get yourself into a community group that is fighting some of these issues.”

While much attention has been paid to the disruption and anger caused by the rail strikes, Lynch said that overwhemingly, people are keen to support the RMT’s walkout.

Lynch was instrumental in last week’s launch of the Enough is Enough campaign, a coalition of unions, MPs and charities coming together to demand action on the cost of living crisis.

More than 100,000 people signed up to the campaign within its first few hours and a launch event in south London this week saw a huge turnout.

“We’re getting a wave of public sympathy and we want to see that rolled into a more generalised campaign to get a fair deal with all working people,” Lynch told the Big Issue.

“If you campaign properly and you get a strong message out there, then people will support you.”

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