Socialist Worker

'We will not cross a picket line, Ken'

by tube driver, and RMT safety rep Edgware Road
Issue No. 1908

LONDON MAYOR Ken Livingstone wanted me to cross my union’s picket line and work during the tube strike this week.

He says that for the first time in his life he would abandon his principles and scab a strike.

Well, I’m not going to listen to you, Ken. I’m not going to listen to a man who is paid over £100,000 a year, plus expenses.

And why should a station assistant, earning £18,000 and working from 4.42am, listen to your advisers, paid up to £111,000 a year, when they anonymously brief the media against the RMT union?

When you talked about a “generous” pay offer, were you talking about the nice house you’ve given tube boss Bob Kiley?

Livingstone may be prepared to part with his principles, but thousands of tube workers are not prepared to part with our jobs, conditions and providing a public service rather than a money grabbing operation for the multinationals.

This week’s strike isn’t over some petty issue—it’s about a huge attack on tube workers that will also hit the public.

You may have heard we’ve been offered 6.5 percent over two years, but what you might not know is that the mayor and London Underground (LU) want to cut 800 jobs.

They want to cut staffing levels at stations and force us to work later at weekends.

They want to make drivers work at any depot in their “business unit”—so Jubilee Line drivers at Wembley Park could be made to work at Morden depot on the Northern Line, adding hours to their travel to work.

You also might not know that station staff and signal operators were promised a 35-hour week seven years ago.

Every year since then, LU have bleated on about how they can’t afford it.

Livingstone’s now said we can have the 35-hour week, but only if we sacrifice hundreds of jobs.

It’s difficult to describe the anger within the RMT at Livingstone’s call for scabs.

This is a man who the union changed its rules to back when he was standing for mayor as an independent.

We campaigned for him enthusiastically four years ago. This year RMT general secretary Bob Crow wrote to us in London telling us we should all vote for Ken in the recent elections.

Along with other tube workers, I voted and campaigned for Respect. But I voted for Livingstone as my second preference for mayor.

We all shared the anger that tube bosses under Livingstone are still trying to squeeze the workforce at every opportunity.

But I didn’t want Tory Steve Norris to win. I argued within the union and at work that we should all vote so that did not happen.

And after all this, activists like me have been called “political nutters” by Livingstone’s advisers.

All we are doing is sticking by the principles they say they champion. Well, they’ve shown us where they stand, and the battle lines have been drawn. We’re ready for the fight.

For more turn to page 15.

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Article information

Sat 3 Jul 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1908
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