A London Underground “Employee Bulletin” of 19 February announced Tube bosses’ plans to commission driverless trains on several lines.
The Rail, Maritime, and Transport workers’ union (RMT) and drivers’ union ASLEF have launched a dispute over the issue. The announcement, in the midst of an ongoing RMT and TSSA fight against job cuts and closures on stations, is an extraordinarily belligerent act by management and an indication of the extent of their plans to automate and destaff the network.
An RMT statement said: “We reaffirm our position that every train must have a driver to ensure the safe and effective running of the Underground. We believe that the travelling public also strongly want a driver on the front of the train for their own safety and security.
“This announcement is not only a reckless direct attack to the safety culture on London Underground but is also an attack to the train driver grade as a whole. This trade union will fight to defend the train driver grade on London Underground! We demand a cab at the front of every train; a train driver on the front!”
ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan promised an “all-out war” to stop the introduction of driverless trains. Bob Crow, his RMT opposite number, said: “Any attempt to introduce driverless trains on the system will result in an all-out campaign of industrial action.”
Meanwhile, talks over LU’s “Fit for the Future — Stations” cuts plan continue. Although the 4-6 February strikes forced bosses into a limited retreat, many union officers and activists believe more strikes will be necessary to win real concessions.
The rank-and-file bulletin Tubeworker, published by Workers’ Liberty, is pushing for the unions to make a clear, public statement of intent that, if the talks fail to yield concessions, strikes will be reinstated.