By Raymie Kiernan
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2410

Tube electricity control staff escalate strike

This article is over 9 years, 11 months old
Issue 2410
one picket line
One the picketline on Wednesday morning (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Some 40 London Underground workers who control the Tube’s power supply began an eight-day strike on Tuesday of this week.

They are fighting unequal conditions, increased workloads and job cuts.

After bosses insisted their strike would not impact on the service workers escalated to a 14-day strike today, Thursday. The Power Control Room Operators (PCROs) are Unite, RMT and TSSA union members.

Unite union shop steward Danny told Socialist Worker, “If they have so robust a plan in place then let’s see how robust it is.”

The workers are angry at a range of attacks relating to privatisation and an increasingly business-minded management planning cuts.

PCROs have never struck before. But strikers said since Tory mayor Boris Johnson took over at City Hall they have seen a “hardening in management” who are increasingly “pig-headed”.

Bosses refuse to pay them for training new staff but pay similar workers to train staff. PCROs also demand that they all have their years of service recognised. Most were privatised 15 years ago but brought back in-house last year. 

Some were “enticed” back earlier, say strikers, but bosses won’t recognise over ten years of their service. This has a big impact on future severance pay if bosses wanted rid of them.

Workers are furious at plans to introduce new technology that will cut around 25 percent of their jobs and increase workload for those left.

PCROs work shifts that cover  24 hours a day all year round in a controlled environment marshalling 22,000 volts of electricity, which allows many other parts of the Tube to operate.

Bosses claim “detailed planning” means they can run the control room during the strike. But Danny said the senior managers and engineers doing their job have “no first hand experience of the job at all”. 

Workers have at least six months training. On the picket line today strikers had 175 years service between just six of them.

One striker said, “We maintain the railway in a safe and efficient manner, ensuring the track is discharged of current for the safety of other workers on the network. This is how most of the engineering maintenance is done.”

He said the people scabbing on their jobs had done a “crash course on a simulated system.

“If you are working trackside are you going to feel safe and have confidence in them doing their job properly?” he said.

Unite has called on the ORR rail safety regulator to probe the bosses’ operation. 

There are serious questions raised over whether Tube bosses are running the network safely – Tube workers would be right to refuse to work on health and safety grounds.

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