Thousands of tube workers in the RMT transport union brought the London Underground system to a halt from 7pm on Tuesday with a 48-hour strike over pay, job cuts and management bullying.
Their dispute is crucial in the war to stop bosses and the government making ordinary people pay for the a crisis created by those at the top of society.
Everyone should back the tube workers’ fight. London Underground is cutting 1,000 jobs while Transport for London could slash 3,000 jobs. Neither company has ruled out compulsory redundancies, which would break an agreement with the RMT and Aslef unions.
The London Underground and Transport for London workers voted overwhelmingly for strikes in a reballot triggered by management’s legal challenge to a successful strike ballot.
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.
With RPI at -1.2 percent this means pay cuts for workers in real terms. Management offered the union a two-year deal in talks last week, but this was rejected as it would still mean pay cuts.
Management have also launched an aggressive campaign using attendance and disciplinary procedures against workers.
They want to weaken the RMT and push through a series of spending cuts to help pay the bill for the failure of the privatised Metronet infrastructure company, which could cost over £400 million.
There is deep anger among tube workers over management’s attacks.
Pat O’Brien, an RMT safety rep, told Socialist Worker, “The ordinary working person is being asked to pay for the mistakes of the bosses and the government.
“We’re all sick and tired of the powers that be saying to us that we’re lucky to have a job in a recession. Staff are being treated appallingly.
“I have been a union rep on London Underground for
18 years and have never known the bullying and intimidation of workers to be at such a level.
“I have been going round different areas organising for the strike, and people are really up for it.
“People who voted against striking in the first ballot voted for it in the second.
“This is a big fight and we shouldn’t expect to win it with one hit. It will take more strike days to beat management and we will need to prepare for them.
“There is the possibility of co-ordinating our future action with London postal workers, who are also being treated appallingly. Working class people need to stick together.”
Lynda Aitken, an RMT learner rep on the Jubilee Line extension, told Socialist Worker, “People have been telling me they’re coming out. Some are excited about it, especially the ones who have never been on strike before.
“Workers did not cause the problems. The union opposed the Metronet PPP scheme. We are not to blame for the crisis. And we have to eat and pay our bills. That’s why we need to be paid better.
“Customer service assistants on London Underground are paid around £25,000 a year – in the most expensive city in Britain. The five year pay deal that management originally offered means our wages would be reduced.
“We have to cope with shifts where one day you can finish at 1am, have a day off and then start at 7am the next morning.”
Growing disillusionment with senior management’s attacks is also affecting tube managers, many of who are RMT members.
One RMT member said, “The company has to cut back on billions of pounds worth of spending.
“Whenever the union tries to address senior management over issues they refuse to talk. If we do get talks, they want to get their own outcome, not the rational result.
“Some managers are now being treated in an outrageous way. One support manager has recently been given a choice of, lower grade job, redeployment pool and if they don’t find another job within a matter of months, they’ll be out the door, with compulsory redundancy.
“This breaks the company’s agreement with the union on no compulsory redundancies.
“There will probably be more managers and admin workers taking action this time than has been the case previously.”
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