Socialist Worker

Tube workers' fight goes on over new rules despite union cave in

by Unjum Mirza
Issue No. 2054

Bosses on London Underground have imposed new safety rule books. The rules are absolutely fundamental to the way we carry out tasks.

The new rule books are nothing of the sort – they’re merely guidance documents.

Safety representatives wrote to Her Majesty’s Railway Inspectorate (HMRI) raising a number of fundamental issues with the new books.

These include London Underground’s ludicrously unsafe suggestion that staff can work to either the old or new rules. We stated that you cannot run a mass transport system with two different sets of rules.

The HMRI concluded that it was not in a position to have London Underground withdraw their implementation date.

However, it agreed that “any situation where staff could choose whether to use the old rules or new rules would tend to unpredictable results, confusion and poor communications and would increase the chances of an unforseen incident occurring”.

The RMT rail workers’ union wrote to all companies – London Underground, Metronet and Tube Lines – on 23 May stating that failure to withdraw the implementation date for these books would result in a dispute.

On the eve of the introduction of the books the union was threatened with legal action.

This was because of a leaflet circulated which advised members of their right to refuse to work on the grounds of health and safety if they believe they were in serious or imminent danger. This right is enshrined in law.

London Underground, however, interpreted this as a call to unofficial industrial action. This is nothing new. The bosses always threaten unions with legal action.

It is for this reason the RMT is proudly leading the campaign for the Trade Union Freedom Bill – an attempt to restore trade union rights eroded during the Tory years and upheld by New Labour.

The RMT caved in to this threat and called off the dispute on Thursday of last week, the day the rule books were implemented. There was no consultation with representatives and members of the region.

The RMT London Transport region remains united in its opposition to the introduction of these new rules and is determined to turn the situation around.

Unjum Mirza is the RMT political officer for the London Transport region. He writes in a personal capacity

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Article information

Tue 5 Jun 2007, 19:11 BST
Issue No. 2054
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