What is going on at top of ASLEF?
"I'M OUTRAGED. This is no time to call off a strike, with the government and management on the defensive." That is how one tube driver in the ASLEF union reacted to the news that his union leaders had called off an official strike for this Thursday. The move left the RMT union planning an official strike alone, after an astonishing 11 to one vote for action.
Activists in both unions responded with calls for members of all unions on the tube to refuse to cross picket lines on the day of the planned strike. Such solidarity ensured an effective strike on 5 February. "Then it was ASLEF striking officially, and the RMT banned from taking part due to a court ruling," one RMT activist told a meeting of rank and file tube workers on Monday.
"Over 4,000 RMT members refused to cross picket lines. We need the same action by ASLEF members now." ASLEF members began organising that action last week. Branches at East Finchley, Arnos Grove and Neasden voted not to cross picket lines. Tony Dugard, an ASLEF union rep at Arnos Grove, said, "The majority of ASLEF reps are calling on members to respect picket lines.
"Every ASLEF member I've spoken to says the decision to call off our official action was a stitch up." The ASLEF executive met on Wednesday morning last week and decided by four votes to three to continue with the strike.
Then the executive member responsible for the tube, Terry Wilkinson, was called to a meeting with London Underground management. In his absence the meeting was reconvened. Under pressure from general secretary Mick Rix it then overturned the original decision. Terry Wilkinson heard of the new decision from management. The only change in London Underground's offer was to change the word "consultation" for "full discussion". All the outstanding issues of safety and job security were unresolved. Yet the ASLEF leadership, or rather a key section of it, stitched up a deal.
Mick Rix was saying at the beginning of this week that he would not undermine the action and would be on the RMT's picket line alongside its assistant general secretary, Bob Crow.
ASLEF activists were using those statements to build solidarity. But as one ASLEF member says, "What the hell is going on-calling off a strike and then saying you'll be on the picket line?"
Protesting against pool closure
HUNDREDS OF people joined a protest last week against the threatened closure of Govanhill swimming pool in Glasgow. Campaigners have occupied the pool to keep it open