Socialist Worker

Tube bosses use the law to hold off strike

by Matthew Cookson and Esme Choonara
Issue No. 2147

There is deep anger among London tube workers in the RMT transport union after a legal challenge by their bosses to a strike ballot means that workers will have to vote again.

RMT members at London Underground voted by five to one to strike over job cuts, pay and bullying. Workers at Transport for London also voted overwhelmingly for action.

But London Underground’s bosses have used the anti-union laws and picked on minor discrepancies to challenge the ballot. The RMT national executive then made the decision to reballot.

Workers are furious at their bosses’ attack on their democratic rights. A number of workers are also critical of their union leaders for taking the decision to reballot without consulting the members.

Threats

Union activists are determined to get an even bigger yes vote in the next ballot, and to face down any more threats from the employer.

Malcolm Taylor, an RMT rep on London Underground, told Socialist Worker, “The size of the vote for strike action is fantastic. It shows the feeling of the rank and file over pay and bullying. It’s off the back of this result that we’ve been hit with this spurious legal challenge.

“It goes against workers’ rights. Workers are like slaves in relation to the anti-union laws in this country.

“Our fight goes on. We’re going to rally our troops and reballot.”

John Kelly, a London Underground worker, said, “As long as our members vote yes, it is legitimate action. The legal challenge is politically motivated. Mayor Boris Johnson and the City bosses can’t afford to let us shut down London.”

Management have claimed that the information that the RMT has supplied them about who is to be balloted and their workplaces is wrong in a number of cases.

They have complained that the RMT has supplied information for whole groups rather than individual workplaces. For instance, management say there are at least three London Underground premises at Baker Street station, rather than the one unit that the RMT has provided details for.

The demand for this level of detail has been replicated across much of the network.

Paul, the branch secretary from Baker Street station, pointed out that the amount of information being asked for is unreasonable. He said, “Where I am, that level of detail means recording which entrance workers use. It’s impossible to have that sort of information.”

A similar legal challenge by London’s bus bosses was last year used to drive workers’ pay fight off the road.

Linda Wiles, the secretary of Transport for London number one branch, told Socialist Worker, “The issues are really important to our members – management won’t even discuss pay with us and there are lots of other issues such as workers not being allowed the union rep of their choice.

“I’m not happy about having to reballot, but I accept that we’ll have to. We should be talking now about what the legal threat to the union means. After all if it’s about the union’s funds, we should remember that the members are our biggest asset – that’s what counts, not the money.”

Fight

Unjum Mirza, the political officer of the London transport region of the RMT, said, “We will all fight to get an even bigger strike vote in the reballot. But let’s not lie to our members – we could well be back in the same position in a few weeks’ time.

“When this happens we should name a date for a strike and stick to it. We have to build up networks now to start preparing for this.

“If it goes to court we have to put the law on political trial. The anti-union laws are not just being maintained under this government, but extended.”


If you enjoy Socialist Worker, please consider giving to our annual appeal to make sure we can maintain and develop our online and print versions of Socialist Worker. Go here for details and to donate.

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.