A magnificent strike by London Underground workers humbled their management and London mayor Boris Johnson this week.
The 24-hour strike by members of the RMT and TSSA unions brought much of the tube network to a juddering halt.
The workers are fighting to defend jobs and safety.
Every line was severely affected on Monday and scores of stations were closed.
In a blow to management’s careful plans to organise scabbing, the strike was even stronger than the previous one last month.
And, in a superb show of solidarity, yet more members of the Aslef train drivers refused to cross picket lines this time.
Inept managers attempted to keep a semblance of a decent service running. They failed.
One example of the chaos was an upside down electronic display on a board at Waterloo station. The only line with a “good service” was Waterloo & City, which is a shuttle service between just two stations—Bank and Waterloo.
But at Monument station an announcement told passengers that the line was not running from Bank.
While Johnson huffed about a “pointless” strike and called for harsher anti-union laws, pickets were clear what the action was about—defending jobs, safety and a public transport service.
Bosses’ plans mean that around 800 station staff posts will go, ticket office opening times will be reduced by around 7,500 hours a year and the time between essential maintenance checks on trains will increase from two to four weeks.
An RMT member at London Bridge station said, “Less staff means a worse service and less safety. If there was an incident at a station—such as someone fainting, a problem with an escalator, or assistance needed on a train—who would deal with it if we weren’t there?
“Every time we go to a session with management they say that more people will be using the tube over the next few years. We don’t have enough staff to provide a proper service now. How will we do it with less?
“The Tories have transferred the argument about the budget deficit from the bankers to the public sector. It’s incredible.”
Bill Kirkwood, a TSSA union rep, said, “There’s even more support from staff for this strike than the last one. This is the strongest feeling I’ve ever seen among the workforce. We have to keep going with the strikes.”
An RMT member at Monument station said, “We have received more support from the public than for any other action. I think that’s because people see that we’re taking action on their behalf.
“Disabled people and their families know that they won’t get the help they need if there are less staff.
“If ticket offices are closed, people won’t be able to resolve problems they have with their Oyster cards or with ticket machines, which happens constantly.”
Lynda Aitken, an RMT rep, said, “This is just the first wave of cuts. The spending review on 20 October will see the Tories announce big reductions to Transport for London’s budget.
“If we don’t fight now, it will clear the way for management to make deeper cuts.”
The success of the action has shocked the bosses and shown the huge anger among tube workers. A number of tube union activists are arguing that to win, the stikes must be extended.
An RMT activist told Socialist Worker, “Management had prepared for this strike, and they believed that the RMT/TSSA side would weaken while drivers in Aslef would continue to cross picket lines to work.
“But the opposite happened, wrecking their plans.
“We should now escalate the action to 48-hours, coordinating with the firefighters if possible, and shut down London. If we go beyond 24-hours, we will have more chances to win.”
More 24-hour strikes have been called for 2 November and 28 November.
RMT members who maintain trains at the Alstom firm suspended their pay strike this week after recieving a new offer.