Socialist Worker

London Tube strike is suspended—but the fight isn’t over

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2402

On the picket line at Seven SIsters during last weeks 48-hour strike

On the picket line at Seven SIsters during last week's 48-hour strike (Pic: Emma Davies)

A 72-hour Tube strike set to start on Monday of this week was suspended at the last minute after talks with bosses reached an agreement. It followed a successful 48-hour strike last week. The workers’ RMT union suspended the action saying there were “tangible advances” but the battle against cuts goes on. 

Finsbury Park RMT health and safety rep Joseph told Socialist Worker that suspending the strike was not the right move. He said, “There’s nothing new on the table—it’s breaking momentum.

“Management are testing whether we have the strength. They are going to return and hit us hard. If we are determined we can win.”

The dispute centres around attacks on jobs and pay, and plans to close every ticket office in London. Tory mayor Boris Johnson is at the heart of the plan that threatens to cut up to 1,800 frontline posts, make the service worse for passengers and undermine safety.

The current agreement with bosses includes a station by station review over the next three weeks with a commitment of no loss of pay for workers.

This is a climbdown from bosses who didn’t want any kind of review—but the short timeframe seems to show bad faith.

“I think it’s a temporary truce that will break down,” Steve Hedley, RMT assistant general secretary, told Socialist Worker. “They said there would be a review before and nothing happened. We will be in line for the same treatment.”

Demand

Johnson and the bosses’ “modernisation” plan is part of their goal to weaken unions on the Tube. In talks on Friday of last week they laid down the gauntlet and demanded RMT surrender or strike. 

The picket line at Stratford

The picket line at Stratford (Pic: Roddy Slorach)


By Monday they dropped the demand for the RMT to call off the whole dispute. That was only because they faced a 72-hour strike. 

Johnson insists striking is “pointless” but still calls to limit them by increasing the threshold for ballots. 

The strike last week once again showed the collective power Tube workers have. Transport for London (TfL) struggled with the severe disruption caused by the strike, and were forced to deploy old Routemaster buses to cope.

Bosses were willing to play with passengers’ lives to try and beat the strike, keeping the network open with dangerous overcrowding and barely enough staff.

The ticket office closures are only 6 percent of the cuts TfL wants to make. Johnson and the bosses have now set their sights on pensions and maintenance work.

RMT members are frustrated that other Tube unions weren’t part of the latest action. The TSSA still opposes the cuts and its members struck in January. Joint action involving all Tube workers can stop the bosses in their tracks.

But it’s clear that action from RMT members was having an effect—and that more will be needed to win.

Ticket seller and RMT member Lynda told Socialist Worker, “There are still lots of questions. We need to prepare to strike again—the fight isn’t over. When we’re all out together we’re stronger.” 


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