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Tube workers planning action over safety

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TUBE WORKERS were set to strike a blow for safety and against privatisation with a two-day go-slow next week.
Issue 1880

TUBE WORKERS were set to strike a blow for safety and against privatisation with a two-day go-slow next week.

The action by members of the RMT union comes after five derailments over the last 12 months and the refusal of bosses on the network-now fragmented under PPP privatisation-to meet safety concerns.

Next Tuesday and Wednesday is set to see drivers refusing to go above 25 miles an hour.

‘The reason is simple,’ one driver in north London told Socialist Worker. ‘There are thousands of weak points on the track. That is a product of underinvestment.

‘Under part-privatisation safety inspections have been cut and no longer take place every 24 hours. And now we find that people are not even equipped with powerful enough torches to detect cracks in the track. We want the restoration of daily line inspections. And we want to end the scandal that allows contractors to hire people who can pick up a fake safety certificate from some geezer in a local pub.

‘The subcontracting on the mainline railway has been one of the major breakdowns on safety. Now it is happening on the tube. I know highly experienced drivers who have been in the job for over 20 years who are frightened about what might happen.’

It is not just drivers who will be taking action. Station staff have listed a catalogue of safety failures.

They will be ensuring that stations are shut if they become overcrowded.

RMT members on the tube voted 81 percent for industrial action short of a strike and 55 percent for strike action over safety.

A recent opinion poll found 81 percent of Londoners back tube workers taking action over safety.

There have been calls from activists for hard-hitting action. ‘I think the 48 hours action should be just the beginning,’ says one health and safety rep. ‘If the job is unsafe, it’s unsafe every day-not just for 48 hours.’

The private companies that have got their hands on the tube’s infrastructure under New Labour’s PPP scheme have shown no intention of meeting safety concerns.

Two of them with the worst record for safety on the mainline railway, Jarvis and Balfour Beatty, were planning this week to seek an injunction against the RMT in the High Court.

London mayor Ken Livingstone would like to see a deal before next week. But his Transport for London organisation, which is responsible for running services, has not signed up to the union’s proposals.

The strong public support for taking action over tube safety needs to be turned into active support for tube workers.

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