London Underground and Transport for London workers are set to bring the capital to a grinding halt for 48 hours next week after voting to strike over job losses, pay cuts and management bullying.
London Underground workers voted by over 85 percent – 2,810 to 488 – to strike, while Transport for London workers voted by 60 to 15 for action.
The workers are set to strike for 48 hours from 7pm on Tuesday of next week.
The RMT transport union members had already voted overwhelmingly in April to strike. But after management launched a legal challenge, union leaders called a reballot.
Now RMT members have delivered a blow to the bosses by voting in an even higher proportion for strikes.
RMT members across London Underground met last week after the ballot result had been announced.
They were angry at management for using the courts against the union and launching an offensive on its reps.
Many activists believe that management has provoked this dispute as a way to try to smash the RMT.
London mayor Boris Johnson backs London Underground bosses, as shown by his refusal to meet with the RMT last week.
Activists are determined that even if management attempted another legal challenge to stop the strikes, the action should go ahead. RMT members were encouraged to hear of the massive votes for strikes by postal workers in the CWU union in London.
Many in both unions hope they can take action together in the future.
Tube workers know they are in a major fight.
One RMT rep on London Underground told Socialist Worker, “People look to the RMT on London Underground as a union that will stand up for itself. Union members have a role to play in setting an
example to other groups of workers. Working people shouldn’t have to buckle under because there is a recession.
“It is easy for management to resolve this dispute. They need to return to the agreements on jobs that we have, get rid of the five-year pay deal, give us a decent cost of living pay increase and stop breaking the disciplinary agreements.”
The victimisation of workers and threat to passenger safety has seen RMT members on the Victoria line bring it to a halt with two solid strikes.
One RMT member on the Victoria Line said, “Next week’s strikes will be our third and fourth days on the picket line in recent weeks.
“Management need to come to terms with the fact that members will not be intimidated and will take action as they see fit.”
Unjum Mirza, the political officer of London transport region of the RMT, said, “Management want to destroy the union’s strength on London Underground, and to do that they are going for the reps.
“Two safety reps on the Bakerloo Line have had their email and computer access suspended after management claimed they were using them in an ‘inappropriate way’.
“This is a fight we can win. We should be looking to coordinate our action with the London postal workers to strengthen our strikes.
“Other workers should support our fight for decent pay, jobs and trade union rights.”
Key issues driving dispute
- Jobs – London Underground is cutting 1,000 jobs while Transport for London could slash 3,000 jobs.
Neither company has ruled out compulsory redundancies.
Both also want to rip up an agreement signed with the RMT and Aslef unions in 2001 guaranteeing no compulsory redundancies.
- Pay – London Underground has offered workers a five year pay deal, which would mean a 1 percent rise this year followed by the RPI measure of inflation plus 0.5 percent for the next four years.
This would mean a pay cut in real terms. RPI is currently at -1.2 percent, while the CPI measure of inflation is at 2.3 percent and the real cost of living is rising much faster.
Transport for London has not even made an offer to workers.
- Bullying – Management has launched an aggressive campaign using attendance and disciplinary procedures against workers.
Workers and union reps have received harsh punishments including sick pay being stopped and suspensions.
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