London Underground was completely shut last night and today, Thursday, as all four Tube unions staged a 24-hour strike. Not a train moved and not a station opened.
London Tory mayor Boris Johnson and Transport for London (TfL) bosses were given a hard slap in the face by organised workers, who showed the power they have when they unite.
“We’ve shown we can give them a bloody nose,” Tracy told Socialist Worker. She is a RMT union rep and a Tube driver in Brixton, south London. Driver and Aslef union rep Eddie agreed. “When we’re united they can’t beat that.”
Almost 1,500 traffic jams caused 761 miles of tailbacks on the capital’s roads. Queues for buses were hundreds of people long in some places. Trains above ground were crammed full and delayed.
Someone at TfL clearly had a sense of humour this morning as it announced, “There is a good service on all other lines.” Great news for anyone taking the cable car trip over the Thames River but that was as good as it got.
Johnson and the Tories had to drop their usual crap about strikes being ineffective They have also been quiet about strike ballot thresholds—because all the unions’ ballots blew them out the water.
Instead they want to focus the debate around money, to mask the new rosters they have imposed on workers for the Night Tube in September. TfL bosses also want to divert attention from £4.2 billion cuts they are driving through on behalf of the Tories.
The major issue over Night Tube is the effect it will have on workers’ lives and families if they are forced to work an unlimited number of weekends and night shifts.
Eddie explained, “I’d be getting home for 10.30am in the morning on a Sunday. I wouldn’t get to see my kids and my wife would be setting off for work early the next morning. This is about work-life balance and this imposition is unacceptable.”
Trade unionists brought banners from the local branches of Unison, UCU and NUT unions in solidarity with the strike. The scene was replicated across London as strikers organised lively pickets at many stations and depots despite knowing in advance that they would be shut down.
There was live banjo and guitar music at Leytonstone in east London. More than 30 workers from RMT, TSSA and Aslef picketed the Arnos Grove depot in north London. Passing cars hooted in support as they set up a barbecue.
At Hainault, north east London, RMT and Aslef members on the picket line were proud to be taking a stand.
Many of the strikers said they had worked on the Tube for over 20 years—and said bosses hadn't thought through their Night Tube plans.
RMT rep Wayne told Socialist Worker, “There are health and safety issues that haven't been thought through. What about the fatigue for those driving home at the end of long night shifts?”
Under Johnson there have been 20 strikes in London transport. Like other public services it is under attack from the Tories. This is accompanied by an assault on trade union organisation.
RMT driver Micky told Socialist Worker, “We’re prepared to go out as long as it takes to resist the attacks from Boris Johnson. But we mustn’t deviate from this unity between the unions.
“No secret backroom deals that divide the Tube workers—we’re all out together.”
The sense of unity is strong and there is a thirst for even more as workers see the strength in numbers they have.
Aslef rep Jason said, “We need to be more coordinated in the future, we should be coming out with other public sector unions. The buses should come out with us too.”
Despite the severe disruption public support for the strike is high. Tracy said, “It’s been fantastic – much better than previous strikes I can remember. I think people are sick to the back teeth with austerity and everyone wants to see the Tories out.”
The impact of the Tube strike was intensified by a 48-hour strike by some 2,000 RMT members on First Great Western, affecting train routes from London to Penzance. Their action has been solid too.
Only the unions stand in the way of the Tories’ ideological assault on public services and the poor. That’s why they want to attack the right to strike even more.
The Tube workers have shown how we can take them on.