London Underground maintenance, upgrade and emergency workers employed by Tube Lines struck for 72 hours last week. They were demanding equal pension and travel pass rights to other tube workers.
Other tube workers backed the strike. Some refused to cross picket lines at depots while others refused to drive trains on health and safety grounds.
The strike began on Tuesday evening. On Thursday, the Bakerloo line was severely disrupted when a train hit a buckled tunnel lining.
The RMT union accused tube bosses of “breathtaking complacency” for trying to play down the incident.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said the incident could have had “lethal consequences”. He said, “If the buckled tunnel lining had moved another few inches it could have ripped open the train that hit it.”
The union is compiling a dossier of safety breaches during the strike. It also noted that a driver first raised the alarm about the Bakerloo incident. Tory Boris Johnson wants to scrap drivers on the Bakerloo line.
Tube Lines strikers gathered at the start of their action for a demonstration outside the company’s headquarters on Westferry Circus.
The company was originally set up as a public-private partnership but has been wholly owned by Transport for London since it was bailed out in 2010.
It employs some 1,000 workers to deal with maintenance and upgrade work on the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines. The Emergency Response Unit, which deals with emergencies across the tube network, is also part of Tube Lines.
Jason Cullen is a Tube Lines worker and RMT union rep based at Stratford. He told Socialist Worker, “There’s a two tier system at Tube Lines.
“Some workers, like myself, are protected by Tupe regulations and get Transport for London pensions and travel passes. But many of my colleagues don’t get any of that.
“Maintenance and upgrade work is physically demanding. Lots of people break down physically and suffer from ill health. Life expectancy isn’t that great. That’s why pensions are so important to us. What keeps people going is what they get at the end—a decent life with their families.”
Steve Hedley, RMT’s London regional organiser, was also at the demonstration. He told Socialist Worker, “This is an essential dispute. On the face of it it’s about pensions and passes.
“But the reason the management won’t give in is that they plan to privatise Tube Lines. And the private companies bidding for Tube Lines don’t want to take on those costs and responsibilities.
“The last time Tube Lines had private owners it went bust and had to be bailed out by Transport for London at a cost of billions. Those private firms didn’t pick up the bill—ordinary Londoners did.”