Drivers on the Piccadilly Line are set to strike for 48 hours from 26-28 September, with Night Tube drivers striking on 28 and 29.
Strikes were planned on the Picc from 11-14 July, but were called off after LU offered a settlement. The headline of the deal was a commitment to maintain staffing levels at Piccadilly Line depots at a level well above the agreed minimum, in an attempt to ameliorate a crisis of short staffing. At the time, there was significant dissent amongst some reps and activists, with many feeling that the offer didn't go far enough and that LU couldn't be trusted to keep up their end of the bargain. Many argued that the strikes should go ahead to give the company a reminder of who actually makes the trains move (i.e., workers, not bosses).
The strikes were suspended, but it didn't take long for those who'd argued against suspension to be vindicated. LU reneged on its commitments. Back to square one.
It's absolutely vital the strikes go ahead this time. The company clearly cannot be trusted to uphold agreements made in negotiations unless the additional pressure of workers' action is brought to bear. The only language they understand is profit; stopping the job and hitting their revenue and reputation is the only way to force concessions they actually stick to.
RMT's Finsbury Park and Piccadilly & District Line branches plan comprehensive picketing of depots at both ends of the line, which we confidently expect members of the other union will respect.
Calling off strikes at the last minute isn't cost-neutral. Workers' confidence and mobilisation can't be turned on and off like a light switch. If we train ourselves into the habit of expecting strikes to be called off, at a certain point people will stop voting for them. There's also an issue of union democracy involved; the resolution that led to the initial ballot contained a clause stipulating a 24-hour deadline for negotiations, committing the union to going ahead with strikes if no adequate settlement had been reached 24 hours in advance. Despite this, negotiations continued until the last possible minute.
We elect reps and send them into negotiations to articulate our demands and let the company know what we want. But it's industrial action that will force the changes. The model shouldn't be negotiators saying, "give us a deal and we'll suspend the strikes", it should be negotiators saying "these are our demands: will you meet them?", and if the company responds in the negative, we strike. Simple.
Obviously in the course of a dispute compromise may be necessary, and we may decide that a deal offered at a particular point represents enough of a step forward for us to accept it. But the starting point should always be workers' direct action to win our demands, not the threat of strikes used as a bargaining chip in negotiations. Even on those terms, the more strikes we suspend, the less power that threat has.
Drivers on the Picc are up for the fight, so let's take it to the bosses.