Socialist Worker

London Underground signallers’ victory

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2189

Signal workers on the London Underground have won a significant victory in their battle against the imposition of new rotas.

The RMT union members held a day of solid strike action on 5 February against plans that would mean working up to three weekends out of four.

The workers picketed depots across London and talked to workers in other sections about solidarity action.

This action forced management into an embarrassing U‑turn. In the run up to the strike bosses had seemed confident.

Chief maintenance officer Phil Hufton said, “We are planning to introduce a roster covering 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

But talks between the RMT, Unite and London Underground have produced an agreement which recognises that workers “are not currently rostered to work weekends.”

The agreement also sets out the terms of a joint working party that will report to the company council on 12 April.

The working party “shall seek to reach an agreement on the process through which changes to rosters and shift patterns can be discussed between the company and the unions.”

This is a big blow to management, which thought it could force through the changes. Instead the resistance by the signal workers has shown that action can win.

Privatisation

But the fight is not over on the underground. The wars between management and Tubelines – a private company paid to do much of the refurbishment work – will have effects on workers.

Both sides are planning to make staff pay for the problems that privatisation and cost cutting have created on the network.

Management want to take on the sections one by one, defeating one at a time. But the signal dispute showed that workers are ready to unite to beat back attacks.

Gerry Duffy, director of “employee relations”, wants to take a hard line, with “no concessions” to the unions.

But this is causing divisions among management. Some want to tread more carefully and not provoke the unions into service-wide action.

But that is exactly how the unions should respond if management come back for more.

The signal workers have won an important victory for all Underground workers.


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Tue 16 Feb 2010, 18:13 GMT
Issue No. 2189
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