Just say 'no'? A positive alternative
From the Workers' Liberty pamphlet Tunnel Vision: London Underground's Public-Private Partnership and the fight against it.
Year on year, we have faced attacks both by management and government. The result is that we have had to fight a series of defensive battle, to at best just stand still. We are always responding to management's agenda, rather than putting our own needs and views across. So we are stereotyped as 'dinosaurs' who just say 'no' all the time.
If the question is "Is it OK to attack pay and conditions and cut corners on safety?", the only answer is NO! But that is only the the start of a convincing, rounded strategy, not the be-all and end-all. So what is the alternative?
We face PPP - attacks on job security, pay and conditions, and safety sacrificed to the shareholders. Our reply? "Bring the Tube back into public ownership". Yes, but does that mean we were happy with it before PPP? No! We need to put forward positive demands; sketch out a socialist alternative. We need a Workers' and Passengers' Plan for the Tube.
London Underground should be run to meet people's needs, not the 'need' for profit. No 'management's right to manage' - our right to run things in the interests of all working-class people. There should be:
- massive investment in the existing Underground system, to clear the backlog of repairs and upgrade it for the future;
- expansion of the system with extensions and new lines to improve facilities for working-class areas;
- free travel for all phased in; staff used for passenger care rather than revenue duties;
- democratic control of London Underground by elected passengers' and workers' reps;
- equality at work: racism, sexism and homophobia are bosses' divide-and-rule tactics;
- full disabled access to all stations and trains;
- the return of guards to improve passenger safety;
- a 4-day 32-hour week for all staff to create jobs, promote safety and give us quality time away from the job;
- retirement on full pension after 25 years;
- workplace nurseries for our kids;
- sack the useless managers who justify their jobs by bullying and sacking us: more workers, less managers;
- no contractors: bring cleaning, catering and engineering back in-house.
This kind of programme could fire up not just all Tube workers but millions of working-class people in London.
But where does the money come from? First, cutting deadwood managers saves money - as does cutting the fat-cat salaries of Bob Kiley and others. Second, more democracy and acountability doesn't necessarily cost money.
But most importantly, despite Blair's bleating, Britain is one of the world's richest countries: the issue is how the wealth is distributed. The richest 7% of the population control 84% of the wealth, and we have one of the lowest levels of Corporation Tax (the tax on really big businesses) in the world!
We need massively increased taxation on the rich and big business to pay for not just the Tube but all public services.