THE RMT union has won significant concessions over safety from the companies that run the tube system after calling industrial action planned for this week.
A 'go-slow' on the tube was called for Tuesday and Wednesday after an 81 percent vote for action by RMT members on the tube. But action was suspended on Monday after London Underground management and the private infrastructure companies brought in under the PPP scheme finally gave ground over safety.
The employers agreed to increase the frequency of track inspections across much of the network and undertake an emergency review of safety standards. The union had asked for both these measures in the wake of as series of train derailments this year but had to go as far as balloting for strikes and industrial action to win them.
'LUL and the infrastructure companies have conceded that action must be taken immediately to resolve safety issues and improve track standards,' says RMT general secretary Bob Crow. 'The employers have agreed that night-time track inspections on open sections of track are to be double-manned immediately and that an emergency review of track patrolling, fault reporting and fixing will also start as a matter of urgency. They have agreed that the review - with the full involvement of RMT safety reps - will make its initial recommendations on improvements before Christmas.'
We are prepared to reinstate action if management does not seriously implement this,' one health and safety union rep told Socialist Worker. 'And we have to remember that it is the PPP privatisation itself that is undermining safety. There are going to be further battles ahead. There's going to be a lot of work done in meetings with management in the run-up to the deadline for changes on 15 February. We'll have to see what they come up with. We'll be pushing them hard. It's a case of watch this space-but we've certainly won this round.'
There are already two other disputes on the tube. Drivers at the Edgware Road depot are set to strike on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve over the sacking of colleague Chris Barrett, who was fired for following doctors' orders.
And the RMT is fighting to reinstate five workers employed by Metronet. They were sacked after managers discovered dusty old beer cans even though there was no evidence to show the workers had been drinking at work. Managers did not even get the workers breathalysed, which they are legally obliged to do if they suspect someone has been drinking.