A PLANNED strike by track workers on London Underground has forced the private company on the network into a climbdown over six sacked employees. Metronet, which runs two thirds of the track, had said it would not take back under any circumstances six workers it singled out at Farringdon depot.
Members of the RMT union at the company voted five to one for a strike, scheduled to start last week. That forced Metronet to retreat and say it would accept the outcome of a forthcoming employment tribunal over the case.
That is an advance for the union as such tribunals can only recommend and not enforce reinstatement in cases of wrongful dismissal. And there is no doubting the injustice done to the Farringdon Six. They were sacked because alcohol was found hidden in the depot, but management have been unable to present any evidence that they even knew it was there. 'I just came in one day to find I had been sacked,' says Trevor Trowers, one of the six. I have worked for the company for 14 years and have never put a foot wrong. I have four children and planned raising a family on the basis that I had secure employment. This has been devastating. We've been singled out and we are going to fight for reinstatement.'
Other tube workers were shocked by the behaviour of Metronet management and activists sought to build up a mood of solidarity. While the threat of a one-day strike won some retreat by management, 'it is clear that it is going to take more hard hitting action to win immediate reinstatement in such cases,' says an RMT member.
'We should not rely on employment tribunals, which can easily go wrong even in cases as glaring as this.' A tube driver adds, 'We've got to think about the tactics. We have to work hard to extend the number of activists and build up the feeling where the union goes for stronger action officially and we are able to offer stronger solidarity unofficially.'