RMT and ASLEF have both announced they'll be balloting members for strikes in their campaigns for decent pay settlement and a good deal for members on Night Tube. TSSA and Unite have declared disputes with LU on these issues too, and look likely to ballot as well.
The prospect of simultaneous ballots, and joint strike action, by all four Tube unions is hugely positive. LU have overplayed their hand and united their workforce in opposition to their derisory pay offer and their attempts to impose 24-hour running without proper consultation and compensation.
RMT will also be re-balloting for new strikes in the "Every Job Matters" campaign against job cuts. That ballot will only involve members in stations grades. Tubeworker is glad the union is finally reinstating action in that campaign, but disappointed that the focus of the dispute has narrowed down to stations-only. In building for that ballot, RMT needs to agitate, particularly amongst drivers and engineers, to remind members of the all-grades arguments behind "Every Job Matters".
In the pay/Night Tube campaign, Tubeworker believes that demands for more time off work must be kept at the heart of the unions' claims. Moving to 24-hour running will severely disrupt our work-life balance, and the new rosters proposed on stations drastically reduce our weekends off. Numerous scientific studies have shown the detrimental health impacts of shift working, and particularly night working. If our bosses want us to deliver a service round the clock, they need to make sure our health is protected. This means more time off.
It's essential both disputes have clear directions and demands. Strikes are always more successful and better supported when the workers taking action have a clear idea of what they are fighting for. Opposing management's plans is a start, but we need to make sure we emphasise our own, positive demands. We want:
RMT's pay claim also includes the demand for travel passes for contractors and outsourced workers. Tubeworker wholeheartedly supports this demands and thinks it's positive that the RMT is raising the issue. But, as the only union which organises contractors and outsourced staff, it must also make sure that they are mobilised to fight for that demand too. The RMT's dispute with Interserve on the Bakerloo, Central, and Victoria Lines needs to be activated quickly, and those workers brought out alongside LU staff in future strikes if at all possible.
Unions are due to announce the timetable for their ballots in the coming days. Once they do, reps and activists need to be ready to visit every workplace across the combine with propaganda to build the strongest possible yes vote. There are some workers, such as some new CSAs on fixed-term contracts, who are nervous about striking. Tubeworker has written about that here: unions need to make sure these workers are organised, galvanised, and given the confidence to strike.
When strikes are called, a programme of action - rather than just one or two strikes - should be named, to show the company we are in the fight for the long haul, and not just blowing off steam with a protest strike. And hardship funds should be prepared to support lower-paid members in taking sustained action. We also need cross-union members meetings to discuss the strategy and direction of the dispute.
With strikes now reinstated in the Network Rail dispute, the Tories could be staring down the wrong end of some sustained militancy from the very movement they are trying to shackle with restrictive new laws.
Let's build the votes, and prepare to strike!