Socialist Worker

Strike threat wins concessions for Underground workers

by Matthew Cookson
Issue No. 2096

The RMT and TSSA unions on London Underground called off a three day strike planned from Sunday to Wednesday of this week after winning significant concessions on safety and staffing from management.

Members of both unions had voted overwhelmingly for action over the issues, and any strike would have involved thousands of workers and severely hit the tube system.

Management, backed up by London mayor Ken Livingstone, wants to weaken the unions so they can push through cost-cutting and privatisation.

Management has dropped plans to retain the use of agency staff and 'mobile station supervisors', frozen plans to close or reduce opening times of ticket offices and accepted that all safety critical duties at Heathrow's new Terminal 5 be undertaken by London Underground staff.

It has also pledged to ensure that all station staff are directly employed and fully trained to London Underground safety standards, and to honour an agreement that will ensure that existing skilled signallers are offered jobs at new service control centres.

Station staff on the Bakerloo Line will not now be asked to detrain passengers while working alone. Workers there have struck a number of times over the issue.

Unjum Mirza, the branch secretary of Stratford Number 1 RMT branch and Left List candidate, told Socialist Worker, 'The unions have made significant progress in this dispute, even though the agreement falls short of our aspirations.

'It is clear that management, and Ken Livingstone or Boris Johnson if elected as London mayor, will be coming back on a number of issues in the future.

'Their attacks have been kept in check for now. Tube workers will be facing a number of issues in the next few months. We are coming to the end of our three-year pay deal.

'New negotiations on pay will take place in the midst of Gordon Brown's public sector pay freeze. Management also wants to bring in London Underground security guards, which will mean a major dispute.

'This will be a move away from qualified and licensed staff to people on £7.50 an hour without the necessary qualifications and knowledge in a safety-orientated job.

'The unions need to use this period to regroup, organise and prepare for the major battles ahead.'

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Article information

Tue 8 Apr 2008, 19:57 BST
Issue No. 2096
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