RMT UNION members on London Underground are balloting for strike action over pay. Members on Metronet and Tube Lines, which run the tube's infrastructure, are also being balloted.
Union members are demanding a minimum wage of £22,000 for station staff and a 32-hour, four-day week. They also want paid meal breaks and above-inflation pay rises for other staff. Currently station staff work a 37.5-hour week, despite being promised a 35-hour week in 1997.
Station staff are fed up with management promises that are always broken, and union members are fed up with London Underground not taking our pay claims seriously.
When London mayor Ken Livingstone took over the tube last year he promised that we would not have to wait for months to get serious negotiations under way. But London Underground has proved it is not serious.
A week ago London Underground made an offer that ignored every part of our claim. They offered just 3 percent, with performance-related increases for the next few years. And they have told the union they want up to 400 job cuts. RMT members have to use the run-up to the election to put maximum political pressure on Livingstone.
He has told the RMT that he will "never forgive us" if we take action during his campaign. That alone shows why every RMT tube worker should vote yes-so we can build the pressure and make Livingstone take us seriously.
TONY COLLINS, tube worker
THE CONFERENCE of the TSSA rail union was taking place as Socialist Worker went to press. The conference got off to an encouraging start with good debates on the Middle East and the announcement of a ballot for strikes over attacks on pensions. Delegates overwhelmingly passed a series of motions on Iraq and Palestine calling for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq and condemning Israeli prime minister Sharon.
Jerry Doherty, the TSSA's new general secretary, surprised many delegates with a powerful anti-war speech in the debate on the Middle East. Doherty was seen as a New Labour supporter when he was elected. But at the conference he launched an attack on New Labour over the war saying, "The only person who believes there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq seems to be Blair."
Calling for the Iraqi people to be given the right to govern themselves, he said Iraq was becoming "Vietnam mark two". There was anger over the decision of Network Rail to abandon its final salary scheme for new starters. The TSSA announced the result of a referendum on whether to ballot for industrial action.
Some 57 percent of those responding said they wanted to press ahead. The TSSA will now ballot all of its members on Network Rail.
THE RMT rail union was confident that its members on Network Rail would deliver a yes vote on Thursday of this week for strikes over pay and pensions. With tube workers also voting on strikes over pay, the union is aiming to coordinate action with Network Rail workers.
Bosses at Network Rail, which runs mainline rail infrastructure, are set to pocket bonuses of up to £85,000 each, despite one in four trains running late. Network Rail chief executive John Armitt stands to get the maximum bonus of £85,000 to add to his £450,000 a year salary.
A Network Rail spokesperson admits that bonuses will not be linked to train performance because that has not improved. At the same time Network Rail is telling thousands of signallers, station staff and infrastructure workers that it is to close their final salary pension scheme to new entrants and is offering them the lowest pay rise in the industry.
Strikes by Network Rail workers could start as early as the end of next week. Members of the TSSA union are balloting for industrial action short of strikes. The tube workers ballot result will be on 2 June, which opens up the possibility of linking action around the 10 June election date.
That would put maximum pressure on the government, and help to step up the argument against rail privatisation.