Socialist Worker

A crucial safety dispute on London Underground

Issue No. 2093

Tube workers at the failed Metronet consortium struck last year and won significant gains from London Underground management (Pic:» Guy Smallman )</spa

Tube workers at the failed Metronet consortium struck last year and won significant gains from London Underground management (Pic: » Guy Smallman)

A major battle is set for London Underground after talks between management and the unions collapsed last week.

London Underground wants to close ticket offices, introduce agency staff and private security guards into the workforce, and attack safety standards.

Bosses told negotiators from the RMT and TSSA rail workers’ unions that it intended to renege on its pledge to ensure that all station staff are directly employed and fully trained to London Underground’s safety standards.

Some 3,000 station staff in the TSSA have voted by 81.2 percent to strike over the issues. The union has informed management that unless they modify their stance it will call a 72 hour strike from Monday 7 April.

RMT members are also now voting on taking strike action in a ballot that will close on Thursday of next week.

Peter Heyes, an RMT member who is on the functional council of service control, told Socialist Worker, “Management were totally intransigent in the talks. They plan to get rid of 250 jobs in my sector and 1,000 jobs in the ticket offices.

“The unions are saying no to this. The plans are an attack on passenger safety and security at night.

“Because of this the unions withdrew from the discussions. It is imperative to get a big yes vote. There is a mass meeting set for next week where we will decide what action we take after the ballot.”

Management are preparing a wholesale assault on the workforce. They want to weaken the unions in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics so that there is no disruption of the event.

Their agenda is to restructure jobs to allow for the wider use of security and agency staff with a long-term aim of bringing in low paid and poorly trained “staff” to replace the unionised and well-trained workforce currently in place.

Key management figures have made this plain. Gerry Duffy, the director of employee relations, said in a memo to all managers, “We are going to face tighter control of budgets in the years ahead.

“Balancing this with the challenges we face means finding smarter, better ways of working. This is a reality we cannot ignore.”

He criticised the unions for resisting these cost cutting attacks, writing, “They insist we stick rigidly to staffing regimes that reflect how we were, without wanting to consider where we need to be heading.

“[They] ignore the financial cost of trying to meet the huge challenges of the future without changing how we do our jobs each day.”

Unjum Mirza, the RMT’s political officer in London and a Left List candidate for the London Assembly elections, said, “While London Underground staff prepare for a major battle we are fully aware it’s not just a political fight but an industrial one too.

“This is against management’s political masters – London mayor Ken Livingstone and ultimately Gordon Brown.

“We will need a big strike vote and solid action, similar to the Metronet strike last year, to win this battle.”

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Article information

Tue 18 Mar 2008, 19:07 GMT
Issue No. 2093
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