Socialist Worker

Solid Tube strike defies London Underground bosses and brings stations to a halt

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2400

Strikers picket at London Bridge station on Tuesday morning

Strikers picket at London Bridge station on Tuesday morning (Pic: Guy Smallman)


London Underground (LU) workers in the RMT union struck solidly for 48 hours from Monday of this week to defend jobs, ticket offices and safety.

Many parts of central London ground to a halt as major stations closed. There was severe disruption throughout the underground network. Transport for London (TfL) even dusted off antique Routemaster buses as they struggled to cope.

Tory politicians whined about “economic sabotage” and “militant trade unionists”. But Tube workers received solidarity visits to their picket lines and encouragement from many passengers.

Polls of Tube passengers have shown two thirds are “quite concerned” or “very concerned” at planned ticket office closures, and think strikes are justified.

On the picket line at London Bridge station, RMT members Karen and Sinead spoke to Socialist Worker about the dispute.

Sinead said, “Our strike is clearly having an impact. Hours after they said they’d be open they’re still running their ‘special service’.”

Karen said, “Management are not going to stop until they get what they want, unless we stop them, that’s why we have to keep striking.”

Edgware Road RMT union learning rep Vicky Marton told Socialist Worker, “This is not about money but health and safety. I can’t do my job properly without the station staff. People fall ill. Accidents happen.”

But it is about money for the bosses.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty for us,” explained Sinead. “We are looking at a drop in wages, worse pensions and less frontline posts.”

“They just want a pool of low paid workers – safety does not seem to be their primary concern.”

Members of the TSSA union struck jointly with the RMT in February. Unfortunately the TSSA didn’t strike this time – although it still opposes the cuts.

Confused

TSSA members may be understandably confused at why they didn’t join the action.

But strikes by RMT members can have a huge impact, especially if they escalate. And they won solidarity from other union members.

On some lines Aslef drivers did not cross picket lines. TSSA members can do the same.

There’s a lot at stake.

As one RMT rep in north London put it, “Bosses are carrying out the biggest attack on LU workers in 20 years.”

RMT leaders suspended a planned 48-hour strike in February for eight weeks of talks. Bosses had promised to review every station, saying that this could mean “some ticket offices staying open”.

But the union came out of the talks with a significantly worse deal as the scale of bosses’ plans became apparent. This includes slashing some 1,800 frontline jobs, a 400 percent increase in managers, and pay cuts of up to £12,000 a year.

And that’s only 6 percent of the cuts that LU bosses want to make by 2021.

Tory mayor Boris Johnson is at the heart of this plan.

When looking for votes in 2010 the Tory toff promised, “Every station that has a ticket office will continue to have one.”

But Sinead argued, “Boris Johnson this week said we are closing the ticket offices. It shows they are not interested in consultation or negotiation.”

The Tories talk of economic recovery does not wash with tube workers either. Vicky said, “This government is only making cuts to working people. There have been no cuts for the bankers.”

The dispute on the Tube is part of a broader battle. Sinead explained that attacks on Tube workers are linked to the attacks on other groups of workers, such as firefighters, health workers.

“They’re privatising as much as they can get away with,” she said. “They demonise workers to get away with selling things off.”

Some workers were concerned that future planned action might be called off. Tube workers are set to strike for three days from Monday of next week.

They have the power to give the bosses a bloody nose – and every trade unionist should get behind them.


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