Socialist Worker

Signalling resistance on London Underground

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2188

Pickets at Hainault, Essexmailto:address Socialist Worker

Pickets at Hainault, Essex Socialist Worker


A strike by 750 signal workers caused major disruption on London Underground last week.

Members of the RMT transport union are angry about management’s plans to enforce shift changes, break agreements and outsource work.

Around 25 signal workers picketed the Hainault depot in Essex on Friday morning, the first in a series of strikes.

The workers are employed by the former Metronet company, a private consortium that went bust and had to be taken back in-house.

Steve Hedley, the RMT regional organiser, told Socialist Worker, “It’s no secret there are going to be £60 million cuts. We’ve drawn a line in the sand here and are fighting these attacks.”

The Union says strikes will continue every Sunday starting from 14 February, until the signallers win.

The aim of the strikes is to disrupt key engineering projects on the underground.

Work started late on Saturday due to the strikes.

Tube worker, Unjum Mirza, told Socialist Worker, “We need to spread the action with solidarity from other sections. If train drivers and station staff come out too, it’ll send a clear message to management that we’re not taking these attacks lying down.”

One picket told Socialist Worker, “Management think they can walk all over us, but the strike today has shown we are solid. We’ll keep on striking until they back down.”

Pickets were also set up at depots at 10pm on Friday of last week at Lambeth North in south London, Hainault, and Acton Town in west London.

There were eight pickets at the Acton Town depot who turned back five cars in the first two hours.

Pickets argued for almost an hour with one worker – who eventually turned around and drove home to applause.

Despite interference from a manager, the workers stood firm.

These attacks are a prelude to job losses and attacks on all grades across the underground.

There needs to be a wider fight over jobs as more cuts are threatened.

Other sections were encouraged to stay out in solidarity with the signal workers. Drivers in particular were concerned about safety.

One said, “I’m going to speak to my manager and tell him I’m not driving the train. If I get stuck in a tunnel with a train full of people, there is no one there to sort it.”

Management’s plans to use agency workers to break the strike came to nothing.

The action affected the Circle, Hammersmith and City, Metropolitan, District and Piccadilly lines with signal failures and emergency work.

Unjum added, “Management are holding back on big restructuring announcements and want to take on the grades one by one.

“The signal workers are the targets now, but others will be next.”

Solidarity action across the grades and network is vital to the victory of the signal workers.

The union must give confidence to its members by keeping them properly informed and preparing the membership for a ballot to stop the cuts.

Organising, militancy and revitalisation: RMT meeting with Prof Ralph Darlington, Bob Crow, and Alex Gordon. 6pm, Thursday 4 March. Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, Shaftsbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8EP


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Tue 9 Feb 2010, 18:13 GMT
Issue No. 2188
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