Indications that ASLEF is dropping out of the fight over pay and Night Tube are alarming - the barely-changed pay offer is not good enough.
What's wrong with the pay offer?
With the offer on the table stuck at RPI only in years 2 and 3, this will amount to a real-terms pay cut, because: firstly, National Insurance changes will be taking money out of our pay packets; and secondly, RPI consistently understates real increases in the cost of living for working people, especially huge and rising costs in London. This offer will leave us out of pocket.
Management expect us to swallow the line that in "times like these" we can't expect substantial pay rises. But last year, the company gave station managers an 8% pay hike. The "economic climate" didn't seem to prevent that!
Moreover, a four-year deal would mean there would be no progress on demands for improved conditions for at least four years, including long-standing claims for shorter working hours.
It would clear management's desks to draw up new attacks on us. When we gave them a four-year deal in 2011, they used those four years to bring in Fit for the Future - Stations. Give them another four years and they will bring in Fit for the Future - Trains, Service Control, Fleet, Track, Admin, etc etc.
Keep strikes on
ASLEF members told Tubeworker that they want the Society to reject the offer and reinstate the strike action.
RMT and TSSA will be considering this development, with rank-and-file members urging that they do not give up the fight. We all want to see all the unions act together, as we know that we are stronger when this happens, but this can not be a pretext for all the unions giving up because one union has given up.
It's not the first time that one union has jumped ship on a dispute, and this has not prevented the others carrying on and winning. When ASLEF ducked out of the fight over PPP in 2001, RMT went ahead with planned strike action, and the result was the 'jobs for life' agreement.
Where does this leave the dispute over stations jobs?
We suffered a setback when RMT decided that it could no longer sustain all-grades strikes against job cuts, and since then, it has relied on coinciding all-grades strikes over pay and Night Tube with stations action over stations job cuts. That had some reasonable success last year, when Night Tube strike action took place. But since the unions stopped striking about Night Tube, it has been noticeable that the intensity of the fightback over stations job cuts has dropped off too.
If we track the progress made over stations jobs (for example, real achievements over pay protection and other issues), there is a very clear pattern: we make progress during times when we are striking; then progress stops when we stop striking.
We are running out of time: Fit for the Future - Stations is being imposed in some areas in February and everywhere else in April. If we had built throughout last year for all-grades action over job cuts (in stations and in other grades), we would be in a stronger position now. If that was found to be completely impossible, stations members could have been encouraged to fight on our own in plenty of time before the imposition of Fit for the Future.
Now we find ourselves on the eve of major job cuts, with the prospect that strike action over pay and Night Tube might not go ahead. At the very least, stations action should still go ahead. But it all has the feeling of too little too late.
We have the promise of a ‘week of action’ by station staff in February after the company imposes Fit for the Future. Why wait til the week it is imposed? And why not tell us what action we’re expected to take? When we get this information, we can organise for it and input into the strategy.
What are we fighting for?
We can revive this fight by keeping our nerve, and by being clearer about what it is that we are fighting for. The aim of 'an acceptable deal' obscures the issues. We want: job cuts stopped or reduced; new trains to have drivers and permanent drivers' cabs; frameworks to remain as agreements rather than imposed diktats; no worsening in anti-social hours; staff not disciplining their colleagues; seated roles to be retained on stations; and more.
Bullet points showing ‘what do we want?’ and ‘why are we on strike?’ help ensure that everyone is clear why we’re taking action, and can help us to move on positively rather than appearing to fight a losing battle.