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Don’t waste the mood

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Issue 1740

Tube fight against privatisation

Don’t waste the mood

THE RMT rail union upped the pressure on London Underground bosses this week, by releasing a leaked document slamming safety lapses on the tube, in the run-up to a strike planned for Thursday of next week. The Health and Safety Executive report identifies 204 safety problems including broken escalators which could lead to “multi-passenger fatalities”.

RMT assistant general secretary Bob Crow said, “This report should be the death knell for PPP,” the tube privatisation scheme New Labour is pushing. Instead there is a smell of needless compromise in the air. Deputy prime minister John Prescott and Bob Kiley, the man London mayor Ken Livingstone appointed as his transport commissioner, were reported to be close to a deal over tube privatisation as Socialist Worker went to press. The press say New Labour has made concessions.

That may be true. But government ministers are still insisting that the core of the privatisation scheme goes ahead. That means handing the track to three consortia of private construction firms, in a similar way to how the Tories privatised the mainline railway. One of those firms is Balfour Beatty. It was the principal contractor on the 550 million Heathrow Tunnel extension which collapsed in October 1994.

It is also bidding to build the Ilisu dam in Turkey, which will destroy the homes of tens of thousands of Kurdish villagers. Bob Kiley has no objection to bringing in such companies. He contracted out work on the New York subway when he was the boss there. And Ken Livingstone has made calls for a “unified management structure” rather than opposition to privatisation, his main point of disagreement with the government.

But tube workers and the London public know this fight is about stopping privatisation. However, the delay between the resounding 11 to one vote for action by RMT members and next week’s planned strike has set alarm bells ringing among rank and file activists. “There is a feeling that we should be on guard,” an RMT rep on the Victoria Line told Socialist Worker.

“We know that if Livingstone agrees a rotten deal with Prescott some in the rail unions will be for throwing the towel in. But the government is desperate to bury this issue before calling the election. This is a great time to fight. We need to spread that message with confidence and the organisation to match it.”

  • The Globalise Resistance umbrella group has called a protest outside the main London offices of Balfour Beatty on the eve of the tube strike. Wednesday 28 March, 4.30pm onwards, 130 Wilton Street, London SW1 (near Victoria station).
  • Public meeting: Take the railways back into public ownership. Friday 23 March, 7pm, Mechanics’ Institute, Manchester. Speakers include: Richard Rosser (TSSA), Mick Rix (ASLEF), Vernon Hince (RMT) and Louise Christian (Socialist Alliance). Called by TUC North West Region.

Socialist Alliance on the streets

SOCIALIST ALLIANCE campaigners hit Harpurhey market in north Manchester last Saturday with their first anti-privatisation roadshow. Blackley Socialist Alliance plans to take the roadshow to other parts of the constituency

A one-day conference organising the resistance to privatisation 
Called by the Dudley strikers

Saturday 31 March, 12 noon-4pm South Camden Community School, Charrington Street, London NW1 Speakers include Tony Benn MP; Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary elect; Bob Crow, RMT assistant general secretary; Liz Davies, ex Labour Party NEC

Backed by the RMT national executive and the London regions of the RMT, ASLEF and FBU unions

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