Socialist Worker

Tube Lines’ workers battling over job security, pay and conditions

Issue No. 2207

Workers at the Tube Lines maintenance company on London Underground (LU) were set to strike for 48-hours from 7pm on Wednesday over jobs, pay and working conditions.

But as Socialist Worker went to press there were rumours that the company had issued a legal threat to the RMT union, based on supposed “inaccuracies” in the ballot.

These include disputes between the union and the company over job titles, grades and the number of members in workplaces.

The challenge is the latest in the wave of bosses’ attacks on the right of workers to strike.

Unions are forced to jump through hoops when balloting.

They must provide information including job titles, grades, departments and work locations for balloted members to the employers. But there is no burden on the employer to cooperate with the union.

The information helps management to organise strike-breaking to reduce the impact of any action.

Tube Lines’ workers are being asked to pay for the failed privatisation scheme on the tube.

London mayor Boris Johnson has been forced to bring Tube Lines—which does the maintenance work on the Jubilee, Piccadilly and Northern lines—back in house because of its failures.

His action confirmed the failure of the disastrous Public Private Partnership scheme on the tube.

Despite this “renationalisation”, the attacks are continuing.

The threat of action meant that Tube Lines made a new pay offer to workers last week—a three-year deal including 4.2 percent for year one, and the RPI rate of inflation plus 0.5 percent for years two and three.

But there was nothing about job security in it, and with major cutbacks across the tube, workers feel vulnerable.

The RMT union reps overwhelmingly rejected the offer at a meeting on Tuesday. They are demanding a one-year pay deal, no job losses, no imposition of rosters and parity with workers at the Metronet maintenance firm.

This is a crucial battle. Management want to weaken union organisation on LU.

A leaked document drawn up by Tory members of the London Assembly revealed that they are discussing moving the tube to a driverless system.

This would mean sacking 3,525 drivers and operators, and so reducing safety.

Any strike at Tube Lines holds the possibility of shutting down the whole network, as workers in the vital Emergency Response Unit, who deal with accidents and urgent repairs, will be involved. Many tube workers will rightly refuse to work on safety grounds.

Tube Lines workers should walk out unofficially if an unelected judge rules against their democratic decision to strike.

A 72-hour strike by RMT members at Serco Docklands in east London was called off this week after a new offer was received.

Workers voted for strikes over the firm’s failure to make adequate payments for the increased workload and responsibility following the introduction of a third carriage to Docklands Light Railway trains.

Members are now to vote on the new offer.

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