Prescott attempts to ram through privatisation
Stop the tube sell off
TUBE WORKERS in London were preparing for a 24-hour strike on Thursday as Socialist Worker went to press. They faced frantic efforts by deputy prime minister John Prescott to force through his privatisation scheme. London Underground management spent a week hinting at legal threats against the rail unions and trying to bully tube workers into going to work on the strike day.
Yet tube workers' determination grew despite that and a disgraceful decision by the leadership of one of their unions, ASLEF, to call off its official strike. New Labour is increasingly isolated over its PPP privatisation plan for the tube.
Bob Kiley, the man London mayor Ken Livingstone has brought in to take over management of the tube in a few months time, is no friend of the trade unions. But he slammed the privatisation scheme on Monday. He said, "The government have a proposal. But it is a dumb proposal and we are trying to get it back into the land of the sane." Talks between Kiley and Prescott broke down at the weekend as New Labour insisted that private consortia are given control of the tube under the PPP scheme.
These are made up of the companies that have got their claws on the mainline railway. New Labour is caught in a vice. Blair has said he wants a deal done over the tube this week.
London Labour MPs fear that an ongoing dispute on the tube could hit them hard in the general election. Tube privatisation is deeply unpopular. As Louise Christian, who is solicitor for the victims of the Ladbroke Grove and Southall rail crashes and is standing for the Socialist Alliance in north London in the general election, says: "I support the tube workers and so do the majority of people. It's clear privatisation is unsafe and we do not want the tube to go the same way as the disastrous system on the mainline railway."
But New Labour is committed to privatisation across the public sector. That is why instead of abandoning the tube sell off, Prescott was looking to last ditch talks on Tuesday to get it through. Rank and file tube workers held an unofficial meeting the night before. The message from that meeting was clear. Serious action by the rail unions, and solidarity between tube workers no matter what union they are in, can defend safety and keep the tube in public hands.