Socialist Worker

10,000 set to walk out at London Underground

by Unjum Mirza
Issue No. 2146

London Underground workers in the RMT transport union were expected to return a big yes vote for strike action over pay, job cuts and bullying on Wednesday of this week.

Around 10,000 London Underground, Transport for London and former Metronet infrastructure workers were balloted.

At least 1,000 jobs are under threat as part of a company “reorganisation” after Metronet was brought back in-house last December.

Workers are angry that the public has paid billions to bail out the failed private consortium, yet workers are now being asked to pay still further through the destruction of our livelihoods.

Moreover, if management get away with this attack they will have undermined previously won agreements. This will open the door to compulsory redundancies further down the line.

Management are also pursuing a five-year pay deal tied to the RPI rate of inflation.

This year’s deal will be RPI plus 1 percent, while the next four years will see just RPI “rises”.

That’s not an offer, it’s an insult. RPI is at 0 percent and the CPI rate of inflation is at 3.2 percent.

The deal will mean a pay cut for workers. It also takes us well beyond the Olympics in 2012. The games will offer tube workers a massive opportunity to improve pay and conditions in the industry. We are also balloting against management bullying.

Management have adopted an extremely aggressive stance towards sickness, applying stringent penalties on workers for any period of non-attendance, regardless of how serious their illnesses are.

Workers are angry that covert surveillance of staff has been restarted. In one case management have allegedly paid out just under £5,000 to a private surveillance team carrying out surveillance of a worker, his wife and their child.

Everyone knows that this dispute is the “big one”. Management are going to get dirty in this fight. No doubt they will refer to the law, and will try and stitch up leading activists.

We can’t allow some un-elected judge wearing a ludicrous wig to scupper our fight. We saw last year how demoralising the impact of legal decisions can be when the pay fight on London’s buses was derailed.

But we’ve also seen workers defy the law to take up the fight for jobs, pay and conditions.

Tube workers need determined action beyond token 24-hour strikes, plus solidarity, in order to win. A victory for us will be a boost to our class by ensuring we don’t pay for the bosses’ and politicians’ crisis.

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


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Tue 7 Apr 2009, 19:04 BST
Issue No. 2146
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