Socialist Worker

Tube workers fight privatisation chaos

by Matthew Cookson
Issue No. 2062

Workers in the RMT union protest at Downing Street last Thursday (Pic: http://www.guysmallman.com/

Workers in the RMT union protest at Downing Street last Thursday (Pic: » Guy Smallman)


The recent collapse of the Metronet consortium responsible for the maintenance and infrastructure of two thirds of the London Underground under Gordon Brown’s Public Private Partnership (PPP) has shown the disaster of privatisation.

It ran up millions of pounds of debt and went into administration.

Tube workers on the London Underground and their RMT union are campaigning to get the infrastructure and maintenance of the system back in-house.

The RMT was set to go into dispute over the issue as Socialist Worker went to press. Workers have already voted massively to strike in defence of their pensions.

The strength of feeling against the disastrous privatisation was seen on an RMT protest outside Downing Street in central London on Thursday of last week. Over 120 tube workers demonstrated, including many Metronet workers.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT, and a delegation of union members took a letter to Gordon Brown reiterating the union’s demands.

Chris Wellman-Herold, a safety trainer in Acton, west London, told Socialist Worker, “We don’t know where we’re going. There’s a lot of stress and people don’t know if they’ll have a job in the future.

“Metronet ran up £2 billion worth of debt. Where’s the money gone?

“We want it to go back into London Underground, but it doesn’t look like it will go that way. Metronet wanted to cut the number of safety trainers in half to cut costs. The RMT made it back away.”

Metronet worker Oriakhi Edwards said, “The RMT kicked against the PPP when it was launched, but this was Gordon Brown’s baby. Now he has to sort it out.”

Paul O’Brien is an RMT rep on the Tubelines consortium that runs the other third of London Underground. He told Socialist Worker, “When I heard that Metronet had gone into administration I thought it was good. But there is a danger.

“The last thing we want is more fragmentation. If that happens things will be worse for the tube, workers and the travelling public. It needs to be brought in-house. That is the safest and least expensive method of getting the work done.”

Political

“It was a very political decision by Gordon Brown when he was chancellor to bring in the PPP,” said Frank Murray, an RMT member on London Underground engineering.

“We had to come to Downing Street now that he’s prime minister to fight against this. Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, has always said he’s against the PPP but he’s privatising the East London Line.

“We need to stop privatisation. Enough public money has been wasted on Metronet. We should organise a national demonstration against privatisation. It hasn’t worked anywhere.”

Bob Crow told the protest, “Six years ago we told the government that PPP would be a disaster. Billions have been given to the privatisers.

“Gordon Brown has said that the private companies made a mistake and that he will hand it over to others that will do it better. He hasn’t learned.

“People are losing 10 percent of their pensions while Metronet is in administration.

“Where does Ken Livingstone stand on this? Brown is in love with privatisation. He won’t listen unless we put pressure on him.

“The RMT executive has said that we will declare we are in dispute unless workers are brought back to the public sector and the pensions issue is sorted out.

“We are going to get Metronet back into a public service – run by the people for the people.”


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News
Tue 31 Jul 2007, 18:49 BST
Issue No. 2062
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