International rail workers

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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Solidarity with Egyptian Workers

Published on: Sat, 12/02/2011 - 11:49

The Egyptian people have forced their hated ruler, Hosni Mubarak, out of office. Through mobilising massive numbers of people onto the streets, workers taking action, and refusing to back down in the face of tiny 'concessions', the uprising has won its first main goal. They now face a fight for Egypt's future.

The centre of the mass demonstrations has been Tahrir Square in Cairo. The Square has become a symbol for grass-roots democratic organisation, with mass movements holding daily plebiscites on strategy and programme, with a thirst for political discussion, and a vibrant sense of the power of ordinary people when they lose their fear. Local communities, in the absence of the police, have organised their own defence.

The people of Egypt revolted against a dictatorial regime which for 60 years (30 years under Mubarak) has denied them political freedoms, and denied workers the right to organise and to improve conditions at work. Egyptians faced huge unemployment and rises in food prices, which accelerated over the last six months. This followed a process since the 1980s of scrapping the food price subsidies which the poor depended on, trashing social provision, and “opening” up the economy to privatisation which has enriched a wealthy elite at the top and a relatively small middle class.

The US and UK governments, having backed Mubarak for years, are now hypocritically welcoming his fall. William Hague tells the Egyptian government that it should "listen to the demonstrators", while at the same time his own government ignores the massive protests by students and their supporters.

Workers Rise Up

While the situation in Egypt is headline news, the mainstream media do not tell us much about workers' involvement. Despite repression, workers have been building organisation and action in Egypt over the last ten years, and are now playing an increasingly important role in the uprising.

Workers in the Suez Canal Company have been holding an open-ended sit-in strike. Over 6,000 agreed that they would not go home at the end of their shift, but hold the workplace until their demands against poor wages and deteriorating health and working conditions were met.

Railway technicians in Beni Suef are striking, and other cities' railworkers have blocked tracks in support. Bus, oil, telecoms, textiles, chemicals, printing, pharmaceuticals and other workers are walking out, striking or sitting in. Some workers have taken over their workplaces, kicked out the bosses, and begun to manage production themselves.

By Friday, when Mubarak resigned, there was in effect a general strike, involving Cairo transport workers, doctors and nurses, steel workers, and the 25,000 or so textile workers at Egypt's largest factory in the town of Mehalla al-Kubra - and many others. The workers have been fighting for the end of the dictatorship, and their own economic demands.

A New Trade Union Federation

The official trade unions in Egypt are "state unions", so closely linked with the regime that they can not and do not effectively represent and organise workers. There is only one legally recognised trade union centre, the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), which has close relations with the NPD, Mubarak's party. The ETUF has the power to control the nomination and election procedures for trade union office, and no strikes can take place without the permission of two-thirds of the ETUF board.

Egypt's workers have rejected the yoke of the state unions, and on 31 January declared a new trade union federation. The new federation is demanding:
* the right to work and “unemployment compensation”
* a minimum wage no less than 1200 LE; a maximum wage not exceeding ten times the minimum wage
* fair social security, including the right to health care, housing, education, pensions and benefits
* workers' right to organise without legal restrictions
* freedom for all detainees imprisoned after January 25th.

The new, independent federation has been welcomed by the TUC and the International TUC. We need to do all we can to support it. Mubarak is gone, but Egypt's future is not yet decided. The Muslim Brotherhood is strong, and will want to steer Egypt towards becoming an Islamic state.

In Iran in 1979, a hated dictator was driven out by a mass uprising. But although democrats and workers' organisations were central to that uprising, it was the Islamists who took power afterwards, with disastrous consequences for working-class organisation, democracy, women's rights and sexual freedom. Egypt's revolution can have a better outcome if the worker's movement prevails. We must support it.

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