Powerful action by maintenance workers on London Underground has forced management to back off from big attacks on jobs, pay and working conditions.
RMT union members at Tube Lines—which maintains the Jubilee, Piccadilly and Northern lines—held a strong 48-hour strike two weeks ago.
Other workers on the network supported them, and Tube Lines workers threatened another round of action this week.
The strength of their strikes meant management made big concessions. Bosses guaranteed that there would be no compulsory redundancies and no roster changes.
They also improved a
three-year pay deal, which they claimed they had withdrawn.
Workers will get a 4.2 percent pay rise this year and the RPI rate of inflation plus 0.5 percent in years two and three—with negotiations over working during the Olympics.
Union reps overwhelmingly accepted this and this week’s strike was suspended.
“Management had claimed that this was an ineffective strike and they could do whatever they wanted,” said Paul O’Brien, a Tube Lines track operative and a member of the RMT negotiating team.
“But then they conceded to our demands.”
An RMT activist on London Underground told Socialist Worker, “Tube Lines workers have saved their own jobs—and that’s no mean feat nowadays.
“Management were very cocky. They were out to crush the staff but the action forced them to give workers the things they were asking for.”
London Underground management had gone on the offensive after the first strike, when many workers refused to work on safety grounds as the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) was on strike.
The ERU deals with emergencies and urgent repairs on the tube network.
Bosses threatened to limit workers’ rights to withdraw their labour because of safety concerns. They also claimed that they could discipline those who refused to work during strikes.
“This was a sign of desperation,” said the tube activist. “They were very concerned that they were going to lose control of the network during the second round.”
“Many drivers were up in arms about the threats,” said Paul O’Brien. “The result proves that, unfortunately, we have to show the industrial muscle that we have to retain our rights.”
There are some outstanding issues over pensions and travel passes, which were to be discussed at a meeting this week.
But the victory is a big step forward for the union. The dispute has shocked management, which believed Tube Lines workers were not very well organised.
The Trouble Down The Line rank and file group had a major impact during the dispute.
The RMT now needs to intensify pressure on management to stop job losses across the tube.
Unfortunately, its ballot of thousands of members for strikes has been delayed again due to technical issues.
This must be relaunched quickly, and a yes vote must be won and then acted upon.