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Highlight keywords  |Print this articlePrint this article
From: The Socialist issue 863, 8 July 2015: Greek workers show the way

Search site for keywords: London underground - Union - London - Workers - Pay - Unions - Strike - RMT - Jobs - Transport - Aslef - TSSA

Tube union: why we're striking

Photo by CGPGrey.com (Creative Commons)

Photo by CGPGrey.com (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge)

Transport workers on London Underground were preparing to shut down the capital on 8 and 9 July. Members of all tube unions - RMT, Aslef, TSSA and Unite - will strike together for the first time in years. Bosses want to railroad through 24-hour weekend service, pay cuts and shift changes.

As we go to press, unions have rejected a new offer from management. The latest proposals resolve none of the disagreements. They also try to play off different grades of the workforce against each other with higher one-off bonuses.

Buy the next Socialist for reports from picket lines and the latest developments.


Below is an edited statement from the RMT, which represents staff from every line of work on London Underground.

On 9 July, the underground will be at a standstill. Workers on First Great Western railway will strike on the same day in a dispute over jobs and safety.

The tube strike is in response to 4.2 billion of cuts imposed by the government and mayor of London. We are opposing London Underground demands that we accept additional work at nights and weekends without negotiation, or face a two-year pay freeze.

London Underground is ignoring pre-existing agreements with the unions - and conducting sham talks, which it refuses to even call negotiations.

We do not oppose night running. But we insist enough staff are employed so that the extra burden does not fall on those already working unsociable hours. For example, the proposed roster for South Kensington station only gives staff one long weekend off every 27 weeks.

RMT members on the underground already work seven-day, 24-hour shift patterns. All we are asking for is a fair pay increase that recognises the record number of passengers and massive productivity gains we've already delivered.

Management's originally proposed two-year 'pay rise' was below RPI inflation: in real terms, a pay cut. Its 0.75% offer would have meant only 225 a year for the lowest paid - 450 for the highest. Compare this to the 7,000 accepted by MPs.

Safety

We have a separate but associated dispute over station staffing. Management is cutting 850 jobs, leaving many stations dangerously under-staffed.

London Underground is lying to the public, claiming there will be more staff in ticket halls. This is plainly untrue. Ticket office workers are not coming out from behind glass. The jobs in ticket offices have been cut, and passengers will have to rely on self-service machines.

Many stations will have staffing halved. In reality, many will be left unstaffed. There will not be enough to cover training, annual leave and sickness.

Safety will be an issue. Already assaults on workers are up 44%. With less staff there will be a reduced service of care for disabled passengers. Unstaffed stations will mean many women will feel unsafe at night; already sexual assaults have increased.

Our members will be expected to work anywhere on a line. With just 24 hours' notice, we could be told our duty has moved - and we will need to leave for work at 2 or 3am. This will make it impossible to plan a life outside work. Staff are calling management's plans a "Martini workforce": anytime, anyplace, anywhere!

Management wants to take staff from one under-staffed station to plug gaps in another, rather than simply employ enough in each area.

Train maintenance workers are also striking in protest at management's refusal to increase numbers on duty. Less maintenance time due to night running can potentially increase breakdowns and accidents.

All four unions are united. Our members voted overwhelmingly for strike action. Over 90% voted yes, on turnouts of over 50%. This is markedly better than the Tory government's 24% share of eligible voters.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
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