Tube workers look for more unity

Submitted by on 7 October, 2002 - 11:11

By a Tube worker

London Underground workers, members of RMT and ASLEF, struck for 24 hours on 24-25 September in pursuit of our pay claim.

Picket lines on the morning of 25 September were strong and confident, and the strike effectively shut down almost the whole system.

Another 24 hour strike is due on 1-2 October, roughly coinciding with the local government unions' London weighting strike on 1 October. Further action is due to be discussed at the RMT's London Regional Council on Thursday 26 September.

Yet it is now five and a half months after the date that the claim should be settled. Why is it that we are in this situation? On the rest of the railway system the average settlement for this year is about 5%. Underground management know full well that this is the sort of offer that would come out of arbitration. Which, of course, is why they don't want to go to arbitration!

It was good to see the posters going up warning the public in advance not to expect any service during the strike. The reason for that is in large part the fact that ASLEF and RMT have come out together.

ASLEF is the majority union among drivers, but RMT also organises many drivers and is the majority union in the whole workforce. This year has seen growing unity in action between the two unions. ASLEF unofficially backed the RMT's strike over the threat from privatisation to Tube safety standards, and it is even better to see ASLEF balloting alongside the RMT over pay. The small delay in RMT action caused by waiting for the ASLEF results was well worth it.

It is unfortunate, however, that we are not striking over both pay and privatisation/safety at the same time. RMT's Regional Council had asked for this several times but has turned down by the RMT executive, who obviously feel that they know better than the people in the front line.

The way to take forward both fights, over pay and over privatisation, is by linking the issues. It would be stupid to strike one day over one issue, then one day over the other. In fact, the reason that management have refused us a reasonable offer is because the Treasury are holding the purse strings in preparation for privatisation.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow was seen strongly supporting the firefighters at the TUC. Well done, Bob - a welcome change to the usual windbags.

But why is Bob Crow talking about another ballot on action to support the firefighters? If it isn't safe to run trains or open stations without proper fire cover - and it isn't - then we can all refuse to work on the grounds of safety. London Underground Limited have a procedure laid down covering this. We don't need to ballot or lose money. We just need a clear lead from union head offices and Health and Safety reps.

We need to organise together across the unions, building local strike committees, cutting across the divisions that hamper us, and reaching out to make links with the other workers taking action: firefighters, local government workers, and others.

Union head offices have let us down in the past. We are in a much better situation now, with Bob Crow, Pat Sikorski and Mick Rix at the head of RMT and ASLEF - but the only guarantee is a strong, independent minded and organised rank and file.

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