At long last, we are to get our ballot papers to take action to stop London Underground's job cuts. As we all know, the company is cutting up to 800 stations jobs. It is also cutting staff in service control. With 300 drivers more than it needs, LU seems to be dealing with the 'excess' by sacking drivers for mistakes that would have got you a warning a couple of years back. And various leaked documents have shown that plans are afoot to cut jobs in engineering and fleet, no doubt to pay off the price of the disastrous PPP.
David Cameron is fond of saying that "We are all in this together" - while dumping working people, the poor and disabled far deeper in it than his rich mates. But while workers and our bosses are not in it together, all grades of workers certainly are. None of our jobs is secure, and we can not afford the luxury of looking out only for ourselves. We are all in this fight together.
So it's good news that RMT's ballot includes all grades and is about all job cuts. We understand that TSSA's ballot is not far behind, but have yet to hear what ASLEF will be doing.
We need to think about the best strategy to win. Strikes can not just be one-off protest gestures designed to allow us to let off steam. We need to show the employer that we are serious about stopping these job cuts: when the union names its first strike, it should name the second one too, so everyone is clear that if we don't win straightaway, we will not give up and go away.
We also need the unions to look at providing hardship payments to members who will struggle with lengthy action. Unite gave BA cabin crew £30 for each strike day.
Annd we need to use 'action short of strikes' in an imaginative way, to maintain momentum between strikes and involve more members.
Rank-and-file organisation and leadership is essential. We have seen with the ballot delay that union bureaucracies can be slow and unresponsive, and can be more concerned about staying in control than getting action organised.
Where they fail, we have to act. We all need to spread the word round the workplaces, giving each other the confidence that we don't have to accept job cuts, that they are not inevitable, that we can fight them. Encourage all your workmates to vote Yes in the ballot, give out union leaflets and information to counteract management propaganda.
The excellent 'SOS: Staff Our Stations' campaign has raised passengers' awareness of the attacks on stations jobs and ticket office opening hours, and has kept up the momentum of our campaign while we have waited an age for the union head offices to get the ballot ready. A public and political campaign should continue alongside our industrial fight.
We should also link up with other public service workers, and service users.
Politicians are arguing about whether half-a-million or one-and-a-half-million public sector jobs will go as a result of the ConDem government's bloodbath Budget. So we have plenty of potential allies in our fight to save jobs!
And while our jobs are under threat, so is our 'social wage' - with benefits and tax credits being cut or frozen, and government departments having their budgets slashed by 25%, we could all soon see less money coming in and more going out.