London Underground: cuts call for more than token action

Submitted by Matthew on 29 April, 2010 - 2:01 Author: A London Underground worker and RMT member

In February, London Underground announced 800 front-line stations job cuts: 450 ticket sellers, around 200 station assistants, alongside a handful of managers.

Facing a slick campaign from London Underground, RMT activists are campaigning hard, and are now waiting for a fighting response from the top of the union.

Latest figures show that every station will lose a significant number of staff, when we have too few already! Even current numbers leave some stations regularly unstaffed. There are never enough to deal with incidents. When a short delay leads to overcrowding on platforms, staff need to control the flow of people into the station. If someone falls on an escalator, or activates a passenger alarm on a train, or finds a suspicious package staff are needed to keep the service running and safe. Workers genuinely fear that they will not be able to run stations safely if these proposals go through.

Customer service will go out of the window. Boris Johnson, elected on the pledge to save ticket offices, will close them in all but name, restricting opening hours to as little as an hour a day.

RMT activists have kicked off the “S.O.S. — Staff Our Stations” campaign. We have gone to the press and are doing regular public leafleting, tapping into sympathy on customer service and safety issues.

But we are facing a new breed of London Underground management, who are fighting hard and strategically. A document that recently fell out of management into union hands revealed their plan to prepare for and provoke a strike. They will not give in easily. They rode out a very effective two day strike last year. They are also playing different grades against each other by leaving station supervisors and drivers out of these attacks, convincing some that these cuts “won’t affect them”. Drivers’ union ASLEF is feeding this division by recruiting drivers who don’t want to strike for station staff.

We need a concerted, united fight. Sustained action, not one or two day strikes, uniting all grades.

RMT’s leadership are not treating this battle with any urgency. They are in dispute, alongside the smaller, more conservative stations union, TSSA, but not yet preparing a ballot. The court injunction that prevented the Network Rail strike has been a perfect pretext for sluggishness, illustrating why union leaders secretly love the anti-union laws they publicly decry. Workers’ Liberty activists have been at the forefront of building this fight. We will continue public campaigning, building unity across the grades and putting pressure on our union leadership to take the fight up seriously, as it deserves.

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