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Tube workers on track for strikes—after a battle with union officials

The strikes are long overdue, writes an RMT union rep and station staff member on London Underground
Issue 2874
Around 10 people stand on the picket line during Tube strikes

Tube workers struck last November (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Station staff on London Underground are set to strike on 4 and 6 October. The action by RMT union members will coincide with the Tory party conference, plus national rail strikes by Aslef union members.

The strikes come as Tube workers face a barrage of attacks. In stations, new rosters have been imposed that have slashed staff numbers. We exist in a state of constant chaos. 

Supervisors and managers spend much of their time simply trying to fill the gaps or rushing between stations to give others meal breaks. We get emails appealing for overtime several times a day from across the network, and station closures have rocketed. 

More stations are left unstaffed or have staff working alone, increasing their risk of suffering violence and abuse. As assaults rise, more workers are then off work, increasing the dire staffing situation.

By striking we’re also standing up for a decent service for passengers and their safety.

Now we face a whole reorganisation of areas across London Underground. This would increase the number of stations staff work at and mean longer travel times to and from work. 

On top of that our pension remains under threat and management want to change things such as our attendance at work policy. A previously floated draconian policy showed they want to clamp down on sick workers and make it easier to push people out of their jobs.

It’s about time the union called strikes and the action is long overdue. Tube workers had been set to stage a week of walkouts in July, with different grades striking on different days. It would have been the most serious action so far in our dispute. But the union leadership called off the action at the last minute with no consultation with workers or reps. There is still anger over this.

At a station reps’ meeting last week, every speaker opposed the calling off of the action. Reps described how it had damaged confidence in the RMT among union members and had demoralised people.

When our regional organiser Jared Wood summed up by saying he would ask for a dispute resolution meeting with bosses, the meeting erupted. Speaker after speaker said this wasn’t enough—and demanded that the union name dates immediately and ahead of any further meetings.

We now have those strikes, plus an overtime ban for a week starting on 15 October. But our ballot is nearly six months old now, and so far we haven’t had any strikes. Plus this action only involves station staff, while all grades face attacks.

Transport for London (TfL) claims the Tories are forcing it to make cuts. But it should fight for the government to properly fund public transport. And TfL isn’t poor when it comes to the people at the top. It’s handed bonuses to top bosses this year and is forecast to have a £75 million surplus this year. 

We shouldn’t accept propaganda for cuts—from the bosses or the Tories. And we will need more hard-hitting action, involving the whole of London Underground, to win.

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