International rail workers

French lessons

Published on: Sat, 22/02/2020 - 18:44

Our monthly Tubeworker editorial meeting on 20 February heard a report from a comrade who’d recently visited France during the mass strike wave, as part of a delegation organised by Workers’ Liberty.

Workers in France have been striking against proposed pension reforms. We heard how strikes are organised via democratic assemblies in workplaces, which take decisions about whether to continue striking. We also discussed the effect of laws which require “minimum service levels” in industries like healthcare, and laws in other industries like transport aimed at reducing the ineffectiveness of strikes. Because French workers have a more militant culture, these laws are not as restrictive or effective as bosses would like them to be. This is a lesson for us, as the Tories attempt to impose similar laws here. Vigorous resistance can force the government to back down, or render the laws inoperable.

We also discussed some limitations of the movement in France, including its lack of a clear political alternative to the Macron government beyond the demand for the pension reforms to be scrapped. Mass strikes around industrial demands can be immensely powerful, but if the workers’ movement doesn’t pose an alternative programme for how society should be organised, we’re ultimately leaving the rule of profit unchallenged at the political level.

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Driverless Nightmare

Published on: Sat, 31/08/2019 - 14:02

Lest we forget, while we continue our day-to-day battles with management, behind the scenes they continue to prepare to introduce driverless trains.

And in case anyone believes the hype that they are 'safe', read this report of a toddler being separated from his mum on a driverless Metro train in Sydney last week.

Incentivised by a financial squeeze on operating costs while government grants remain available for capital investment, TfL top bosses have their eyes on a future without those pesky drivers. We have heard little of it over the last couple of years, but we can be sure that the Tories will make more and more of an issue of driverless trains (and nicking our Nominee Passes) in the run-up to next year's Mayor and GLA elections.

The daftest thing for us to do would be to hold off on fighting driverless trains until they have been designed, manufactured and delivered. Let the shocking incident in Sydney remind us of the need to fight this now.

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Familiar Names in Hong Kong Train Collision

Published on: Tue, 19/03/2019 - 15:51

MTR - which has the contract to run Crossrail - has come a-cropper in Hong Kong, as its trial of new signalling systems came off the rails.

Two subway tains collided between Central and Admiralty stations during an early morning test run on Monday before start of traffic. Both drivers were taken to hospital, with one suffering leg injuries.

It looks like the fault was in the software, which is supplied by another name familiar to Tube workers: Thales.

The incident is being seen as damaging to MTR Corp’s reputation, following a series of scandals and a top management reshuffle in the last year. But will this latest cock-up make TfL rethink its policy of contracting-out crticial functions to private companies? Or will our intrepid bosses carry on regardless?

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Working as a CSA in São Paolo

Published on: Wed, 20/02/2019 - 21:35

JB, a worker-militant working on the railway in São Paolo, Brazil, recently visited London, and spoke to a number of radical workers' organisations including Tubeworker and the Angry Workers of the World. He is involved with the Invisíveis collective.

He wrote a document describing his experiences as a worker, and outlining his perspectives for struggle. They are not perspectives Tubeworker would entirely share, but we republish them here (with the author's permission) in the interests of making links between transport worker-militants internationally. The document was originally published in Portuguese by the Passa Palavra website.

The document is available here as a PDF.

Tubeworker also spoke to JB about his thoughts on the situation for workers' struggle in Brazil following the election of far-right president Jair Bolsonaro. He told us:

"There's no doubt that we're in a very bad moment. There are widespread fears about what Bolsonaro's presidency might lead to, in terms of an increase in violence against workers, the left, and minority groups and so on, and these are fears that I share. There is a growing reactionary movement in society. Bolsonaro has talked semi-explicitly about armed struggle, and he will facilitate people getting guns more easily.

"I don't believe the institutions of the official left, the unions and the Workers' Party (PT), are part of the solution. They have been part of the administration of the state. Bolsonaro's working-class supporters are in part reacting to the institutionalisation of the left, and the fact that the left defends the system. They saw a vote for Bolsonaro as a way of creating a rupture with that system.

"Appeals to an abstract 'anti-fascism' won't help us. We have to get serious about practical organisation against the threat of fascism, including talking seriously about self-defence. We need to build a movement that can address the social grievances the Bolsonaro movement exploits. Not all of his supporters are convinced fascists, and working-class people who voted him could be reached by a genuinely revolutionary working-class movement that presents an independent alternative."

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They Move New York, We Move London: Support TWU Local 100!

Published on: Sat, 19/11/2016 - 18:15

3,000 New York public transport workers demonstrated outside the Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA) offices on Tuesday 15 November, ahead of contract negotiations between MTA and their union, TWU Local 100.

TWU projected their demands onto the side of the MTA building (the equivalent of us projecting demands to scrap “Fit for the Future” onto 55 Broadway!). Slogans on their placards included "We Are The Working Class", and "We Move New York". Just like us, their labour is essential for the day-to-day functioning of one of the world's major cities, and they won't accept injustice.

They are fighting for increased wages, better pensions, and new safety provisions - all issues that London Underground workers can connect with!

This is a multiracial workforce standing together to fight for more rights and power in the workplace, the complete antithesis to the racism and nationalism of the Trump movement.

We should support our brothers and sisters in TWU Local 100 any way we can.

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A lesson from across the Channel...

Published on: Thu, 12/03/2015 - 20:17

We recently reported on a 44% increase in assaults on Tube staff. In January, a CSA at Lancaster Gate was stabbed (see here for more). With this issue at the forefront of our minds, we were pleased to receive this report from comrades working on the railways in Lyon, France. Although these workers work on mainline railways, rather than a metro system like LU, the story shows how strong workplace organisation and industrial action can tackle health and safety issues, and how the key demand in response to staff assaults is to increase staffing levels.

Since the beginning of the year, there has been an increasing number of assaults on customer service staff in the Lyon area. This is due to low staff numbers, both on board trains and at stations.

On 6 February, at around 7pm, a worker on a commuter train confronted three young passengers (who were drinking, and smoking cannabis) who were harassing others passengers. They did this at the request of other passengers, and were helped by another off-duty railway worker.

In response, the young passengers attacked the workers. One had a glass bottle smashed in his face, and the other had a rib broken.

As news of the attack spread across social media, and became widely known by other customer service staff, a wildcat strike was launched. Almost 90% of on-duty customer service staff in the company stopped working.

French labour law contains provisions that allow workers to stop work when they feel their bodily safety is threatened; but the emotional response to assault was so strong that whether or not the strike complied with this law seemed irrelevant.

For nine hours, our bosses ignored the situation, despite phone calls from our local union reps. Finally, at 11am on 7 Feburary, managers met with local reps. But the bosses walked out of the meeting a few hours later, leaving both workers and commuters in the dark without information.

This illustrates the contempt of the bourgeoisie for the working-class: "your bodies, your safety, your lives don't matter - only profits."

Eventually, alarmed by the growing number of strikers, our bosses agreed to resume the meeting later that afternoon. Their stubbornness was finally broken when local unions threatened to spread the dispute nationally. On 8 February, our bosses agreed to create 16 additional jobs. The grassroots strike gave us the upper hand over management.

The lesson? Direct action gets the goods!

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Solidarity with the São Paulo subway workers' strike!

Published on: Tue, 10/06/2014 - 17:11

Subway workers in São Paulo, Brazil, are striking to win a 12% wage increase. Their strike is now into its fifth day.

Strikers and supporters clashed with riot police on Monday 9 June, as Brazil gears up for the start of the World Cup.

Workers in other industries have also struck, facing repression from the police and the military, as the approaching World Cup highlights glaring and growing social inequality in Brazil.

Tubeworker expresses our full solidarity with our brothers and sisters in São Paulo, and will be exploring ways to build practical support amongst transport workers in London.


Everyone has been following the mobilisations going on in Brazil with strikes and demonstration by workers and popular organisations expressing their indignation about the World Cup with its astronomic costs and corruption, all in function of the interests of the multinational companies and FIFA.

But at the same time people have been putting forward their concrete struggles making demands for salaries, rights, housing, better public services. They have denounced repression and criminalization of dissent, etc.

At this moment, the transit workers in São Paulo are in the fifth day of a strike which began last Thursday. The transport workers carry 4,000,000 passengers every day in the city where, next Thursday, 12 June, the opening of the World Cup will take place.

Because this strike is so important, the government has decided that it has to be defeated come what may. It is seeking to impose an end to the strike and also prevent the mobilisations from escalating in the coming days.

The Brazilian Justice Ministry, working hand-in-hand with the interests of the government, big business and FIFA declared the strike illegal today and demanded that the transit workers return to work immediately. It has established a daily fine of US$250,000 on their union for non-compliance.

This decision by the Justice Ministry allows the government to dismiss the strikers, contravening all their legal and economic rights. We are counting on the support and solidarity of all the Brazilian union centres that are organising initiatives in support of the strike.

The union and the workers have decided to continue the strike, despite the government’s orders, in order to defend their demands and also to defend their right to strike. We need your support and solidarity. Send messages to the e-mails below, post photos on social networks, broadcast this call on your lists and web sites, etc.

• Full support for the São Paulo transit workers
• Respond to the demands of the transit sector
• Defend the right to strike.!
• No to repression, no punishment!
• Alckman [São Paulo governor] — negotiate!

Altino Prazeres
President, São Paulo Transit Workers Union

Metro workers' union site
Metro workers' union Facebook page

Send messages of support to:

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Chicago Train Derails and Climbs Escalator

Published on: Tue, 25/03/2014 - 16:30

The good news is that, amazingly, no-one was hurt when the 'Blue Line' train at Chicago airport derailed and climbed an escalator.

The bad news is that the accident happened at all and that around 30 passengers needed hospital treatment.

The lesson for us lies with the apparent cause of the crash: driver fatigue due to working overtime to make ends meet.

The answer? Pay decent wages and stop overtime. Simples.

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