THE GLOVES are off in the battle on London Underground. Management was set to table a revised offer on Thursday of this week. This is partly designed to divide the tube unions. Last week's strike by members of the RMT and Aslef unions was at least as solid as the one the week before.
Tube bosses were able to get only a limited shuttle service running on parts of four lines. Almost exactly the same small number of drivers scabbed as the week before - about a dozen. This time management was better organised and determined to get them running a token service rather than sitting in depots.
But it faces a problem of a well supported strike. Fewer station staff turned up for work on last week's strike day and there were more pickets at stations, not just at depots. At Moorgate, for example, news that there would be a picket line convinced some booking office staff not to come in and one person was turned away on the day. That is why management has talked about concessions over unfair pension and travel concession arrangements in order to hold the line on the 3 percent pay rise it has imposed.
But as Finn Brennan, an Aslef rep for drivers across the tube, said following an Aslef activists' meeting on Monday of this week, 'At the moment there is not a deal. And we do not know what management will come up with later this week. We have to make sure that any agreement benefits everyone who has struck - drivers and station staff.'
There was a similar feeling at a RMT union activists meeting the following day, as well as calls for the unions to stick together and settle only if both got an acceptable settlement. Strikes last year and this have gone a long way to rebuilding a tradition of RMT and Aslef members not crossing each other's picket lines. The executives of Aslef and the RMT were to meet jointly on Wednesday of this week.
Extended action would create huge problems for management and for big business in the City of London, which has lost £65 million on each of the strike days so far. Stepping up action means building on the strengths of the last two strikes, addressing weak areas and involving wider layers of tube workers beyond established activists.
Across the Tracks
'THE FRONT page is a rebuttal of management lies about the tube workers. There are first hand strike reports and an interview with Bob Crow about solidarity with the firefighters. Across the Tracks is important because it coordinates rank and file rail workers across different grades and unions. This is the sixth issue. We have money for 7,000 copies, so it sells more than any other rail workers' rank and file paper ever has.'
Mac McKenna, RMT activist on the tube
Across the Tracks, the paper for rank and file rail workers - phone 07801 071 363 for your copy.
Lobby London Underground management, 3pm, Wednesday 16 October, 55 The Broadway (St James's Park tube). Bring union banners.