London Underground workers plan five days of strikes over cuts to jobs, ticket offices and safety. The RMT union announced a 48-hour strike from Monday of next week followed by a 72-hour walkout from Monday 5 May.
Eight weeks of talks with management confirmed what many union activists knew already—that Tube bosses wanted more cuts than they were letting on.
London Bridge station ticket seller Lynda Aitken told Socialist Worker, “It’s great news that the strikes are back on. London Underground bosses have raised the stakes—so we have to raise the stakes too.”
The bosses want fewer staff in stations and no ticket offices. Their proposals are part of a 12.5 percent cut to Transport for London’s (TfL) budget.
They claim it would mean a better service for the public.
But it’s clear to most Londoners that the bosses’ vision of the future looks bleak for station staff and for passengers.
That’s why two-thirds of passengers polled on the eve of the last strike said Tube workers were justified to strike against the cuts.
Tube workers showed their power with their successful 48-hour strike in February. Most of the network ground to halt—despite bosses’ attempts to keep some stations open at dangerous levels of overcrowding.
Unfortunately the TSSA union, whose members joined the February strike, has not called action now—though it still opposes the cuts.
But RMT members can make a huge impact, especially with a longer strike. And other disputes inside TfL mean they won’t be out alone.
RMT assistant general secretary Steve Hedley told Socialist Worker, “We’ve called five days of action on London Underground, but we are coordinating the first two days with TfL and Heathrow Express workers.”
Heathrow Express workers were set to strike from 3am on Tuesday of next week against management cuts that mean almost half the workforce is threatened with redundancy. Workers who remain face a ten-year pay freeze.
Bosses also want train drivers to take on the role of evacuating passengers in an emergency so they can get rid of other onboard workers.
TfL back room workers plan to walk out from 9pm on Monday of next week in an ongoing row to defend their pensions.
It’s right to stand up to the Tories’ attack on London’s transport service and its workers—and it’s a fight that can be won.
Lynda said, “Central London ground to a halt during our last strike. We’ve now got to build the biggest turnout we possibly can to deliver hard-hitting action again.”
Hedley said, “We are prepared to keep striking until there are no more threats of job cuts, pay cuts and our pensions are safe.
“If the employers don’t pull back we will need to escalate our action.”
Tube bosses want cuts that are significantly worse than what was known last year. Some 1,800 frontline jobs are under threat. Many workers face pay cuts and downgrading.
Bosses want a 400 percent increase in the number of managers while cutting the overall workforce by 38 percent. Many Tube workers could be forced to work further away from home and some will have their pay slashed by up to £12,000.
Tory mayor Boris Johnson is at the heart of this plan. He is ultimately responsible for a massive attack on workers’ jobs and the transport service for millions of Londoners.
When looking for votes in 2010 the Tory toff promised, “Every station that has a ticket office will continue to have one.” But now he plans to close all the ticket offices.
David Cameron also waded into the row during the last strike. He got his numbers muddled up in an attempt to repeat TfL’s claim that 3 percent of journeys involve a visit to a ticket office.
Even if that was accurate it still means an average of one every three minutes at each of the 260 staffed stations and over 100,000 people a day across the network.
But in reality TfL figures show that one in five journeys start at the ticket office. That’s certainly not the sort of number to suggest the offices are not needed.
They are vital for people who have problems with the automated Oyster system, or who are less familiar with London.
Without offices, stations will become even more hectic and chaotic places.
And, as Socialist Worker has shown, the biggest impact will be on disabled people—many of whom are already trapped by a transport system that doesn’t provide the support they need.
The cuts are nothing to do with making the service better for passengers. The Tories want the bosses to profit as much as they can from our public services.
Imperialist tensions are heating up
More Islamophobia in the Tory party