LU pay/conditions: strikes can win a better deal

Posted in Tubeworker's blog on Sat, 22/02/2020 - 19:37,

Negotations with LU over pay/conditions have taken us as far as we can go. To win a deal that brings us closer to our demands, we need industrial action.

Aslef has already committed to ballot its members. Its ballot begins on 28 February and closes on 9 March. Tubeworker encourages all readers who are Aslef members to vote yes for action. RMT reps from across LU are meeting on 26 February to discuss next steps. RMT has chosen not to ballot up to now. We think that has been a mistake. The delay has allowed momentum to slip. But late is better than never, and if RMT now launched a vibrant, assertive campaign around an immediate ballot, that momentum could be rebuilt.

Some have argued that LU’s latest offer, for an RPI+0.2% pay increase for four years, is adequate. We disagree. A 0.2% increase (the “RPI” element only keeps our pay in line with inflation) is hardly anything to get excited about, and the offer includes no concessions of any of our other demands, including a reduction in working hours. As LU has now accepted the principle that any reduction in the working week would be facilitated via additional banked rest days, we should ask any workmates still wavering on this issue: why wouldn’t we want more time off work?

It’s regrettable that the talks have dragged on for as long as they have, but simply wanting to get them done is not a good reason to accept an inadequate offer. LU’s narrative is that we have a choice between two offers - the one it made in October, with 1.4% pay increases plus three additional banked rest days in years two and four of the deal, and the more recent “money only” offer. We say: we can win something better than both.

How many times have we heard LU say something is “full and final”, or absolutely set in stone, only to find that industrial action, or the threat of it, pushes them back? The threat of action by drivers over excessive track noise led to the discovery of an additional £10 million for track work; the threat of strikes by fleet workers forces LU to scrap a “full and final” plan to cut train maintenance; and a 2017 strike by station staff forced the reversal of 325 job cuts.

With GLA and Mayoral elections due on 7 May, we have some additional leverage. Mayor Khan will not want Tube strikes in the run up to this election, especially as he’s boasting about having reduced them! This will create additional political pressure on our bosses to get a deal done. For RMT to hit the thresholds required by the anti-union laws in a combine-wide ballot of its entire membership will be a challenge, but it can be done. In 2015, the last time RMT balloted combine-wide, both a 50%+ turnout and a 40%+ yes vote were achieved. Had the thresholds been imposed at that time, we would’ve cleared them.

Ultimately, we are faced with a choice between giving up, accepting our employers’ disingenuous and hypocritical pleas of poverty (no money to fund a shorter working week, but enough money to pay senior bosses eye-watering salaries?), and take a deal that keeps our pay in line with inflation, but nothing more. Or, we can decide to fight, and at least give ourselves the possibility of winning something better. We can win a substantially above-inflation pay rise, and a meaningful reduction in working hours, but we need to be prepared to fight for it. Let’s do that.

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