Climate justice groups have joined RMT picket lines across Great Britain to support the rail strike and argue the government must invest in public transport to avoid the worst impacts of global heating.
Hundreds of activists from several groups including Just Stop Oil, War on Want, Extinction Rebellion [XR] and Friends of the Earth Scotland have joined striking workers on more than 40 picket lines in towns and cities, with more expected to turn out in the coming days.
They argue that well-funded, publicly owned and affordable public transport will be essential to reduce the UK’s dependence on fossil fuels, moving people away from cars to more energy-efficient trains.
But they warn the cuts and redundancies proposed by the government will not only hit workers in the middle of a cost of living crisis but also weaken the rail network, locking in high carbon transport such as cars for decades to come.
According to government figures, transport is the UK’s largest source of emissions, responsible for 27% of greenhouse gases in 2019. Of this, 55% comes from cars and most of the remainder is from vans and lorries.
Bruce Murphy, an organiser with Just Stop Oil, is one of scores of the group’s activists who have been on picket lines in the past few days.
“You can’t separate the cost of living crisis and the climate crisis and I think more people are understanding that in both the green movement and the progressive labour movement,” he said.
Murphy, who was on a picket line in Manchester, said trade unions were Britain’s biggest social movement and that strikes were “a powerful tool of civil resistance for workers and communities being forced to pay for a crisis they didn’t cause.
“I’m proud to stand with trade unions because I know that together our collective power can take on the crisis we face in our cost of living, climate and our democracy.”
Asad Rehman, a leading climate justice campaigner and director at War on Want, said the root causes of the cost of living crisis and the climate crisis were “corporate profiteering that is pushing millions into poverty, and rolling back hard won rights that are critical to guaranteeing everyone a dignified life.
“Now more than ever we need to invest in cheap, green, low-carbon mass transport, such as railways, with decent pay and conditions for rail workers, low fares, and regular services. Cutting carbon and defending workers rights are essential to stopping the climate crisis.”
As the second day of strike action started, climate activists joined rail workers at picket lines across the UK from Glasgow to Manchester, Preston to Brighton, Sheffield to Bath.
Finlay Asher, from the XR Trade Union group, said: “Climate justice means social justice. The only way workers can fight for a fair low-carbon transition is by building union strength and the power of collective bargaining.”
James Schneider, from the Jeremy Corbyn-backed We All Want to Just Stop Oil group launched earlier this month, said it unequivocally backed striking rail workers who deserved “to be paid fairly in a transport system that operates for the benefit of the people and the planet – not for private profit.”
He said that whether people were “kept up at night by low pay, rising bills, climate breakdown or our broken politics” they had to work together.
“If we unite to take on our common enemy – the billionaires, the big polluters and the politicians they own – then we can win decent pay, stop new oil, tax the big polluters and billionaires, have energy for all, insulate our homes and enjoy cheap, green public transport.”