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RMT union leaders are wrong to halt Tube strikes

Thousands of workers were preparing to join the action on Sunday
Issue 2887
Tube workers on strike in south London in November 2022 illustrating an article about Tube strikes

Tube workers on strike in south London in November 2022 (Picture: Guy Smallman)

The RMT union called off a London Underground strike on Sunday afternoon just as thousands more workers were about to join it. It was wrong to halt the walkout.

The action began on Friday as maintenance train workers at Ruislip Depot walked out for 24 hours. Control staff were to strike on Sunday for 24 hours and from Monday to Wednesday nearly 10,000 Tube workers planned to bring the service to a total halt.

Service Controllers, signallers and line information workers were scheduled to continue the strike on Thursday.

Jared Wood, the RMT London Transport regional organiser,  told union members that bosses had conceded a further £30 million for the 2023 pay round. He added this was “a significant increase that will allow us to address the key issues raised by RMT. We will now seek to conclude negotiations as soon as possible.”

Bosses claimed there was no money—but, due to the threat of action, were forced to cough something up. Not a penny would have been offered if workers had not voted to strike, and pressed to reject the advice of some union officials who wanted it called off even before this latest offer.

But even so there are a lot of unknowns about the deal. Is it definitely an annual uplift so it forms the basis for future pay rounds? Who does it cover—managers as well as workers?

Transport for London has around 16,500  people working for it. Does that money cover all of them? If so it would be a little over £1,500 each once the employer’s national insurance payments and other costs are taken into account. That would still mean a below-inflation deal for many.

Are there any strings attached, or implied job cuts? All of these issues could have been resolved in workers’ favour if the strike had continued.

Sadie, RMT rep in Victoria South, told Socialist Worker. “Getting a text at 5pm saying the action was suspended at first felt like a massive blow.

“We were all ready to go. And given that we’d been in a meeting on Friday where some had argued to suspend it for basically nothing, I assumed that those people had now got their way.

“But it seems that the threat of a week of disruption on the Tube forced the mayor to intervene and pledge more cash. This definitely shows our power.

“And it shows that, when they tell us it’s a ‘full and final offer’ or that there’s ’no more money’ this is bullshit. If we’d suspended on Friday, we’d have nothing.

“And you wonder what else they might have ‘found’ had we actually gone ahead with strikes that would have shut down the tube.

“We also have to confirm that this £30 million is on top of the 5 percent already offered, and that it’s an annual thing, not just a one-off.

“People understandably want to celebrate that we got something, but there are issues with how this was done.

“After planned strikes on the tube were pulled in July, many reps were furious and demanded that no future strikes be called off without a reps’ meeting to discuss it first.

“Now we are told there was ‘no time’. The truth is there’s always time if we say there is.

“Sadiq Khan was not going to say the £30 million had suddenly vanished. Reps—and members—should’ve been the ones deciding on the course of our dispute.

“While we have forced some real movement, I think it’s a shame the strikes didn’t go ahead simply because they would have proven how powerful workers are when they organise to take action.

“In my area we had new people pledging to picket, for the first time. It would have been a fantastic experience.

“And who knows what more we could have won! We’ve shown a bit of our power. Now we have to use the confidence people have from this to make sure we end up with a deal we can be proud of.”

Workers should organise to insist on the union’s demand of a rise of £5,000 a year for all and an increase above the RPI measure of inflation. And the union should name more strike dates to increase the pressure.

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