London Transport News

Submitted by Off The Rails on 10 July, 2010 - 9:32

London Underground plans to cut around 800 jobs, mainly among station staff, and to slash ticket office opening times. There are also staff cuts in service control, and with 300 drivers more than it needs, LU seems to be trimming the ‘excess’ by sacking drivers for mistakes that would have got you a warning before now. And leaked documents have shown that plans are afoot to cut jobs in engineering and fleet.

RMT is balloting for industrial action, after spending an age gettng the ballot prepared. TSSA’s ballot is apparently not far behind, but have yet to hear what ASLEF will be doing.
To beat these job cuts, we need a thought-out strategy. Strikes can not just be one-off protest gestures designed to allow us to let off steam. We need to show the employer that we are serious about stopping these job cuts: when the unions name their first strike, they should name the second one too, so everyone is clear that if we don’t win straightaway, we will not give up and go away.

We also need the unions to look at providing hardship payments to members who will struggle with lengthy action. Unite gave BA cabin crew £30 for each strike day.And we need to use ‘action short of strikes’ in an imaginative way, to maintain momentum between strikes and involve more members.

Rank-and-file organisation is vital. We have seen with the ballot delay that union bureaucracies can be slow and unresponsive, and can be more concerned about staying in control than getting action organised.

Where they fail, we have to act. We all need to spread the word at work, giving each other confidence that we don’t have to accept job cuts, that they are not inevitable, that we can fight them.

The excellent ‘SOS: Staff Our Stations’ campaign run by rank-and-file RMT reps has raised passengers’ awareness of the attacks on stations jobs and ticket office opening hours, and has kept up the momentum of our campaign while we have waited for the ballot. A public and political campaign should continue alongside our industrial fight.

We should also link with other public service workers and service users. Between ½ million and 1½ million public sector jobs could go as a result of the ConDems’ bloodbath Budget. So we have plenty of potential allies in our fight to save jobs!

Workers on London Underground maintenance 'Infraco' Tube Lines are fighting a dispute over job security, rostering rules and pay. Transport for London has bought Tube Lines from its private owners Bechtel and Ferrovial, finally ending the disastrous Public-Private Partnership (PPP). But while PPP is over, workers are fighting to ensure that we do not have to pay the price.

Tube Lines said that it could not guarantee jobs beyond TfL’s takeover. But it could offer a 3-year pay deal! We don’t want to be tied into a 3-year deal, but we do want job security! Management also still want the right to impose anti-social rosters, including a big increase in weekend working.

After a 90% Yes vote, Tube Lines tried to get the strike banned, but failed to impress even the usually-compliant judiciary, and a 48-hour strike went ahead in June. Tube Lines workers were solid in their support for the strike. There was no Emergency Response Unit, and the signals were rock solid too. Overnight engineering trains, track and signals inspections were cancelled. Pickets were well-organised and effective.

The impact of the strike spread as LU staff used their right to refuse to work unsafely. By midway through the first morning, LU told passengers there was a ‘signal failure’, as they did not have enough drivers to run a full service. ‘Severe delays’ saw 30-40 minute gaps in the service at times! LU lost face, starting the day smugly asserting there would be a ‘full service despite the RMT strike’, but by the end of the day admitting on the TfL site that the strike was causing disruption.

It has been inspiring to see workers artificially divided into different companies acting together and so maximising our impact. It has also been a good example of large numbers of workers refusing to work on health and safety grounds. Refusal to work en masse is not easy to achieve because it relies on individuals. But many have felt strongly enough to take this step.

As we write, a further 48-hour strike is due to start next week.

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From 1 July, all Underground cleaners are paid the London Living Wage, as ISS finally agreed to pay £7.85 per hour. Cleaning Supervisors will get £9.51 per hour.

This comes nearly two years after RMT-organised cleaners went on strike for a living wage. That strike was settled unsatisfactorily: cleaners on contracts under Metronet won the living wage, but Tube Lines - and ISS beneath them - dodged their promise.

So this pay rise is really two years overdue. But it is still a victory for the cleaners. Without the strike and the public campaign, multinational giant ISS would have continued squeezing the cleaners for the poverty-pay minimum wage.

This is an encouraging story of how when workers get organised, we have power. There is still a long way to go. The companies are looking into putting money towards Oyster cards for the cleaners. And we still have outstanding demands for a decent pension, 28 days holiday, and more.

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