Socialist Worker

Support the strikers taking on 'Southern Fail' and London Underground

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2535

Workers march in London last November

Workers march in London last November (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The Tories are ignoring the woeful service of their favourite rail firm Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR). But Southern rail workers are continuing their fight into the New Year.

Train guards in the RMT union ended a three-day strike this Monday—and drivers in the RMT and Aslef unions were set to walk out for six days from next Monday.

Figures from late 2016 revealed that only 62 percent of GTR’s trains arrived on time.

The firm runs five out of the six least reliable train lines in Britain.

On GTR’s Southern rail service just 56 percent of trains ran on time, continuing more than a year of bad service.

But the Tories keep rewriting the rules to cover up the poor performance.

This is not just an industrial dispute. It raises key issues about privatisation, health and safety and the links between the Tories and their corporate friends.

Numerous politicians and passengers have called for the firm to be stripped of its contract to run Southern. Instead the Tories are helping GTR wage war on unions.

Workers oppose bosses’ plans to extend driver only operation (DOO) because it undermines safety for everyone. It would leave drivers with sole responsibility for safety and get rid of train guards.

But the Tories want DOO to be the default across Britain’s railways.

Subsidies

Fat cats are cheering them on as it could be worth £350 million to them. That’s on top of the hundreds of millions in public subsidies they pocket each year.

Passengers are sick of politicians and the press lying about their daily experience—blaming all disruption on workers’ industrial action. They know that Southern has been a mess for at least 18 months, well before any strikes started.

Some 150 passengers protested in London’s Victoria rail station last month.

They then marched on the Department for Transport (DfT), demanding Tory transport secretary Chris Grayling resign.

Under pressure, the government has conceded that some passengers can claim compensation equivalent to one months’ travel.

Yet because the DfT funds GTR’s London and south east contract, unlike other rail franchises, the firm does not feel the hit.

And with fares rising again this week—up to 20 percent on some Southern routes—a chunk of the refund will be grabbed back from passengers.

Three days’ of drivers’ strikes in December shut down the busy south east rail network, affecting hundreds of thousands of people.

Next week’s strike will be another powerful reminder of workers’ collective strength.

Other unions—and the whole of the Labour Party—need to support the strike effectively.


Action on the Tube after bosses' cuts put passengers at risk

Thousands of London Underground (LU) station workers were set to walk out for 24 hours this Sunday.

The RMT and TSSA members plan to strike from 6pm in a row over staffing levels and safety.

They are fighting back against the impact of over 800 jobs axed in recent years.

A current overtime ban has exposed inadequate staffing levels on the Tube.

Bosses slashed jobs and pushed through the closure of ticket offices on every station in the network in their “Fit for the Future” reorganisation of stations.

The RMT said a recently leaked record of an area managers briefing “exposed the chaos” created by bosses’ cuts.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said, “With the constant overcrowding on stations and platforms it is only a matter of time before there is a major tragedy if we don’t act decisively.

“Our dispute is about taking action to haul back the cuts machine and put safety back at the top of the agenda.”

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes, said, “Our members are fed up of being made scapegoats for passenger frustrations with the new—and failing—ticket-vending machines.

“They are fed up of being pressured into overtime to try to cover-up the misguided decision to cull over 800 jobs.”

He added, “They are also fearful because of the systemic failure of LU to adhere to safety guidelines set in the wake of the 1987 King’s Cross Fire which killed 31 people.”

Picketing Lambeth North station in 2014

Picketing Lambeth North station in 2014 (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Stop on the Central Line

Workers at Central Line Tube depots at White City and West Ruislip in west London were set to strike for 24 hours next Monday.

The RMT union members are defending a colleague they believe bosses have treated “overly harshly”.


Virgin strike vote over pay

Train drivers on Virgin Trains East Coast have voted to strike by 71 percent over pay.

The turnout was 82 percent.

Any action would have a significant impact on the long distance network that stretches from the north east of Scotland to London.

Bosses have made a new offer, which the Aslef drivers’ union is consulting members on.


Cleaners on GWR strike

Cleaners working for outsourcer Servest on the Great Western Railway struck last month for two days.

The RMT union members are fighting bosses over a wide range of issues.

The union said their strike was over “serious bullying, claims of discrimination and poverty working conditions”.

 


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