By Sam Ord
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London tube strikers battle for jobs, pensions and safety

Strikers on the London Underground prevented the network from running on their first day of action
Issue 2794
Tube strikers on the picket line

Tube strikers on the picket line in Brixton. south London (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Widespread strikes brought the London Underground network to a halt on Tuesday. Thousands of Tube workers in the RMT union launched a wave of action to defend 600 jobs and prevent attacks on pensions and working conditions.

The attacks are part of the government “deliberately engineering a financial crisis to drive a cuts agenda,” according to the RMT. Transport for London (TfL) has been offered a “rescue deal” that demands a further £400 million in cuts on top of the £508 million to be made by March 2023. RMT has also called out all London Underground’s grades. As the dispute covers all grades, any worker on the TFL network can strike.

Peter, a tube worker picketing at Stratford in east London, told Socialist Worker, “They’re making us pay the price of the pandemic. Around 10 percent of frontline workers going will make travel less safe for passengers, will give more work to the rest of us and people will be shifted to other stations.” He added, “Every job matters—even just one job cut matters. It affects us all.”

Tube workers are showing defiance by striking, especially as they have come under immense backlash from bosses’ organisations. Tube bosses are quick to blame the workers for disrupting the economy post-pandemic and hitting the network’s income. But this is a crisis driven from the top.

Another 24-hour strike was set for Thursday of this week. Much more action will be needed, but strikers are prepared to escalate their fight and return to the picket lines. Striker Chris, who has worked on the Tube for 15 years, told Socialist Worker, “The government is playing games and taking it out on the unions. 

“This strike will undoubtedly get a strong message to them. When you sign up for a job, you know what you’re getting. After working 20 or 30 years you deserve a good pension. We have to strike because they’re taking it away from us due to mismanagement.” 

Some cleaners, who are often outsourced, have refused to cross the picket line in solidarity. Roy is a rep for cleaners based in North Greenwich employed by outsourcer ABM. He told Socialist Worker, “We were all told that we were essential workers. We put our lives at risk to clean contact points—we didn’t stay at home. We didn’t get any compensation or good equipment. The situation now is that we have no free travel, no good pay, we work harder, there’s less staff and we get no sick pay for Covid related illness.”

Other Tube workers’ unions, such as Aslef and TSSA, have not called their members out on strike, although some workers didn’t cross picket lines. Peter added, “This is the first shot in a long dispute. We will be on picket lines again and we need the other Tube unions to join us.”

The Tories and the media are using slurs against the strikers. On Monday the Telegraph newspaper disgracefully ran a headline, “The enemy underground: how ‘Putin apologists’ brought London to a standstill” about the Tube strike.

It’s an attempt to build up a witch hunt against anyone who fights the government and the bosses. Everyone has to stand in solidarity with the Tube strikers.

But instead of that London mayor Sadiq Khan said, “This action is causing misery for Londoners and businesses alike and damaging TfL at the worst possible time.” He lied that “It’s gone ahead despite there being no job losses, and no changes to pensions or conditions.”

We need solidarity, not lining up with management.

 

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