by JOSEPH CHOONARA
LONDON Underground train drivers in the RMT union went on strike for 24 hours last week at the Edgware Road depot in central London.
Their strike, which began on Thursday evening, was in response to the sacking of tube driver Chris Barrett.
Earlier in the year he was off work with an ankle injury. He was advised to take exercise to recover.
Managers cut off his pay whilst he was recovering and decided to spy on him. They suspended and later sacked him when he was found coming out of a squash court.
Chris told Socialist Worker, “I was due to return to work on 26 July. I was advised by my physiotherapist to take some exercise. I wanted to test my injury before I went back.
“I have letters from a doctor and sports injury therapist saying I’ve done nothing wrong. And they sacked me under a procedure that no one had ever heard of.”
No one from London Underground’s management looked at Chris’s medical records before sacking him.
One of the union officials on the picket line said, “The action has been very effective. There are only four trains running on the Hammersmith and City line today.
“None are running on the Circle line.
“Rank and file union members are fed up with how they are treated.
“We have had another driver reduced in grade this week, costing him thousands of pounds, and one who was injured from an accident had to walk up two flights of stairs to meet managers.”
Another RMT member said, “Striking is a last resort—but we have to make a stand against management. If they want to sack people they just introduce new rules.
“We have had good support. The strike is more solid than even we expected. Members of both the RMT and Aslef unions have stayed away.”
The tabloid press launched a vicious attack on the striking tube workers and on Chris Barrett.
Disgracefully London’s mayor, Ken Livingstone, joined the attack. He was quoted as saying, “I am only surprised that Mr Barrett got away with it for so long.”
RMT general secretary Bob Crow attended the picket line on Friday of last week. He told Socialist Worker, “There has been an injustice and we have decided to stand by our member.
“That’s why people join trade unions. Our members are totally solid.”
Many of the striking tube workers were pleased to see members of both the Aslef and RMT rail unions supporting the action.
Mac McKenna, an RMT member, said, “Management looked at the defeat of Mick Rix, the left wing leader of the Aslef union, and thought tube workers were going to be weakened.
“But Aslef members have not come in to work.
“The unity that was built between the unions under Mick Rix and Bob Crow was strengthened during three strikes against privatisation, and has not disappeared.”