The RMT rail union suspended its three-day strike on 5-8 May after the union reached a settlement with London Underground management.
The settlement commits management to actually carrying out the station-by-station review first promised after the February strikes, sets out a timescale for this (by 23 May), and establishes a framework for proper trade union input. The settlement also commits managements to discussions to “ensure” that workers who previously faced pay cuts will be reallocated to a role of at least equivalent salary.
LU has also committed to pause the implementation of “Fit for the Future”, including the voluntary severance procedures through which it planned to make job cuts, while the review takes place.
Of course, this deal is not perfect. But it is an advance on the position before last week’s strike, and does buy us some time to try and step up our organisation and press for more concessions.
Management promised a station-by-station review after our first, very solid, strike in February. But, once the pressure had eased off, they were allowed to backtrack on this. They can’t be let off the hook again.
Whether the review leads to any ticket offices staying open will depend on mobilisation over the next few weeks rather than on the exact wording of this deal. The wording from February — that it may lead to some ticket offices staying open — has not been revoked and remains on the company’s intranet.
Some local community uproar in defence of their local ticket office would be really useful. The Hands Off London Transport campaign coalition will be crucial to organising that, starting with the action organised by Transport for All at 2pm at Brixton station on Tuesday 6 May.
The definitive commitment to ensure no worker loses pay is a step forward. Management had previously spoken unofficially about this, or about extending the three-year protection of earnings to more staff, for longer, but this is a more concrete commitment. While it does not address the central problems of the overall reduction in staffing levels and ticket office closures, it does means that staff who, prior to the strikes, were staring down the wrong end of a £6,000 to £12,000 pay cut are no longer doing so.
Management, and TSSA, might say that this would have happened anyway, and that it was down to negotiations, not strikes. But without the strikes, and the threat of further strikes, management would have been under no pressure whatsoever in the negotiations themselves. We know they have a far-reaching austerity project: if they could have gotten away with it, of course they would have slashed pay. Our strikes stopped them; that should encourage us.
But the struggle is far from over. Here are our suggestions for the next steps...
• keep up the fight — don’t drop the ball; the strike being suspended does not mean that the dispute is over
• name action now to start after the end of this review so that management know we expect it to deliver results and so that members are prepared for action
• industrial action should consist of strikes, and also action short of strikes, with each grade/function/area taking action that its members believe will be most effective (eg. overtime ban on stations, work-to-rule on fleet, etc.)
• relaunch the existing strike committee as a democratic body with delegates from all grades and branches
• serious fundraising can build a substantial fighting fund to help members facing hardship from industrial action
• mobilising public opposition to the cuts can make the difference and help us win — hold a major central rally, set up HOLT groups in every area and for every line, organise mass leafleting, protests, target politicians etc.
• more effective political campaigning, with more rank-and-file input: RMT members should be able to use their union’s Parliamentary Group and supporters on the GLA to ramp up political pressure on Boris Johnson and the Tories, through lobbies, demos, motions in Parliament and the GLA, and other initiatives.