Socialist Worker

Tube workers: a critical battle for jobs and safety

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2226

Tube workers were preparing for a third 24-hour strike as Socialist Worker went to press in their battle for jobs and safety.

This Wednesday’s action follows a powerful strike by RMT and TSSA union members four weeks ago that brought much of London Underground to a standstill.

Workers are fighting bosses’ plans to slash 1,600 jobs. Ticket office opening times would be reduced by around 7,500 hours a year and there would be fewer essential maintenance checks on trains.

The RMT this week accused London Underground of running trains that have not been inspected properly.

It found damage on a District Line train in service last week that could have caused a derailment.

The union has evidence that, due to cost-cutting, trains that have not been inspected for at least 22 days have not been taken out of service—as operating rules stipulate.

Tube workers are involved in a major fight that will help determine the future of London Underground.

Management are mobilising their forces.

Since September, bosses have been training non-driving staff to break strikes.

An email seen by Socialist Worker shows bosses organising training “designed to give non operational people a basic understanding into train equipment, prior to their relevant stock training if applicable.”

But the fightback is hurting management.

The unions’ overtime ban and work to rule are causing staff shortages—leading to some stations being closed.

Delays in engineering work are causing chaos on the network.

Extending the pickets, and intensifying the strikes, are key to winning.

The magnificent solidarity action this week, when workers refused to work on safety grounds during the firefighters’ strike, shows the potential to escalate.

Official joint action with the firefighters could bring London to a standstill.

A further 24-hour strike has been called for Sunday 28 November.

Solidarity with firefighters scares Tube bosses

Tube bosses are terrified of the developing solidarity between Tube workers and firefighters.

In a management guidance document, Underground bosses say:

 “LU staff have no right to be part of any picket line, irrespective of whether they are taking unofficial action, on sick leave, annual leave or a rostered rest day.

“If any evidence that LU staff have formed part of a FBU picket line, please note the situation and then report the matter to ER (Employee Relations).”

 It goes on: “Please advise ER immediately of all instances where safety reps (or other trade union representatives) appear to be encouraging unjustified refusals or unofficial industrial action, either through their actions or in documentation/flyers...”

 Further: “LU staff at work should not wear any badges of support for or distribute any pamphlets supporting the Fire Brigade strike action.”

Considering management threats of disciplinary action, and the RMT’s refusal to openly support Tube workers who refuse to work during fire strikes, there was an impressive show of solidarity on Monday.

The action, by workers in the Aslef and RMT unions, particularly hit the Jubilee and Piccadilly lines.

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