Link to this page: https://secure.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/192/8096
Solid Tube strike tells bosses - no sell off!
THE TUBE strike in London on 5 February was a massive step forward in our fight against tube privatisation. Even the London Underground (LUL) propaganda machine could claim only an 8% service. To all intents and purposes, the network shut down.
Bill Johnson, RMT member, London Underground
Lord Justice Gibbs tried to ban it; the Evening Standard and Metro newspapers lied about it and management tore down union notices and intimidated staff in a desperate effort to undermine our action.
RMT members ignored his Lordship's flagrant political judgement against our union. This judgment ruled that a 90% yes vote was no grounds for calling a strike. So we respected ASLEF picket lines or took unofficial action to demand a safe tube system and to keep 4,500 maintenance and engineering jobs in the public sector.
Management were shocked at the unity behind the action. They were expecting to run a reduced service but never imagined that on most lines no trains would run at all.
Prescott, Blair and underground management will be in abject panic as they stumble around desperate for a way out of a crisis that's all their own making. Even a last-minute climbdown by Ken Livingstone and his commissioner Bob Kylie to look at a form of PPP with a unified structure, couldn't save the government and LUL from their humiliation.
The success of this action proves that despite the anti-trade union laws, solidarity and rank-and-file action can still deliver effective action. This should be a lesson to all those in the trade union movement who, having lost the stomach for a fight, hide behind the law to justify subjugating their members' interests to their bosses' demands.
As tube workers we must now discuss where to take our dispute. It's clear that tube unions must take the lead in arguing for a publicly run tube system. Unfortunately, Livingstone has gone from promising to stand shoulder to shoulder with us on the picket line to imploring us to call off our strikes.
Bosses in retreat
Prescott and Blair have been forced to concede important ground already. But the alternative financial and management arrangements put forward so far by Livingstone and Kylie will still invite the private sector and its myriad of unaccountable sub-contractors to take over the maintenance and regeneration of the tube.
Whether Bob Kylie can speak to their boards or not will make next to no difference. What have other regulators of privatised transport, water and power utilities done to stop the fat cats ripping us off and making super-profits at our expense?
This is now a critical phase in the fight against tube privatisation. The government and LUL management are disorientated and in retreat. We must force home our advantage.
Tube unions should settle for nothing less than a full programme of refurbishment and expansion of the tube, financed from central government. If the government needs to raise money let the City banks and finance houses pay.
All routine work should be done by in-house London Underground engineers and maintenance workers. Tube unions should also step up efforts to campaign alongside passengers for improved safety, lower fares and an expanded, more reliable service.
Victory is not yet ours but with determination in our programme and action, defeat of tube privatisation is within sight.
"THE VAST majority of the RMT's 1,100 tube drivers defied the injunction and went on strike. This has knocked management for six - they'd promised measures to keep the tube running. The success of this strike will encourage others to join the action."
A Northern line RMT train driver
In The Socialist 9 February 2001: