Tunnel Vision

Preparing the Tube for Privatisation

Published on: Sun, 01/08/2004 - 00:00

From the time Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979, the government and its lackeys in London Underground's management launched attack after attack on the Tube and its workers. These attacks helped to prepare London Underground for privatisation.

They also provoked fightbacks from Tube workers and our unions. Some won, some lost, all provided lessons that we could have learned from for our fight against PPP.

The transport strikes of the 70s and 80s were the only force that Thatcher could not stop.

She stockpiled coal and imported it from abroad to break the

British Rail Privatisation: what it means and why it happened

Published on: Tue, 20/07/2004 - 00:00

British Rail privatisation is the most unpopular government policy in a generation. Opinion polls repeatedly show that around three-quarters of the UK population want the whole railway industry brought back into public ownership immediately.

That is not surprising. Dozens of people died at Ladbroke Grove, Hatfield and Potters Bar in crashes that can be directly attributed to privatisation. The service has worsened whilst prices have risen. And just to rub people's noses in it, fat cat rail company directors have paid themselves huge bonuses.

But behind the headlines, what has life been

Fat Controller

Published on: Mon, 19/07/2004 - 00:00

This article is reprinted from the June 1997 issue of 'Off The Rails', a rank-and-file bulletin produced by Workers' Libety and others which will shortly be re-launched.

'Fat Controller' was a regular feature of 'Off The Rails', casting a satirical eye at the antics of the rail employers. It was written by Rob Dawber, a long-standing Workers' Liberty member and RMT activist, who died in 2001 from mesothelioma caused by expsoure to asbestos while working in the railway industry.
Hi There.
Fat Controller here!

Good to speak with you again.

There have been some changes since we last

The Labour Party: what went wrong?

Published on: Wed, 07/07/2004 - 10:14

- How the party that nationalised the railways in 1948 ended up announcing Tube privatisation in 1998 -

The RMT's forerunner, the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants (ASRS), was one of the pioneers in setting up the Labour Representation Committee in 1900. In that year, ASRS General Secretary Richard Bell was elected to Parliament. He was the first railway worker MP, sitting in Westminster alongside 53 railway bosses!
The founding of the Labour Representation Committee, which became the Labour Party in 1906, meant that rather than cutting the best deal they could with the Liberals - as

Laws Against Trade Unions

Published on: Mon, 05/07/2004 - 00:00

How the British state legislated against free trade unions in the last two decades

For the last 23 years, successive governments have consistently introduced legislation to curtail the action of free trade unionism in the UK. Theirs was a long-term strategy in response to the growth in militant trade unionism from the 1970s. The laws introduced in the 1980s curtailed existing immunities and made solidarity action illegal.

But by the 1990s, the Conservative Government felt confident enough to bring in laws that would fundamentally undermine the role of free trade unions and their rights to

The fight against Tube privatisation reviewed (part 1)

Published on: Sat, 03/07/2004 - 00:00

This (long) article tells the story of New Labour's 'Public-Private Partnership' for London Underground.

Announced in 1998, it was originally scheduled to be implemented by 2000, but the strength of the campaign against it forced that back by three years. But the campaign against it was flawed.

This article forms the major part of the Workers' Liberty pamphlet, 'Tunnel Vision'. Part one takes us up to the height of the struggle against PPP in spring 2001. You can read part 2 here.


New Labour's intention to invite private-sector involvement in the Tube leaked out

The fight against Tube privatisation reviewed (part 2)

Published on: Fri, 02/07/2004 - 00:00

The second part of this article takes us from the RMT settling its strike action in late spring 2001 through to the Government's eventual victory in 2003.

You can read part 1 of this article here.

9 May 2001 - RMT announces further strikes on 4 and 6 June

The RMT General Grades Committee meeting which had decided to suspend the 3 May strike had also decided that should reps reject the offer, strike action would go ahead on 15 May. But when it named new strike dates, 15 May was dropped, and action would not resume until June. It was a good idea to target General Election

Where next?

Published on: Thu, 01/07/2004 - 00:00

As we publish this pamphlet, London Underground is one year into the Public-Private Partnership. Everything that PPP's opponents, especially the unions, said about it has proved true.

  • Major safety incidents, the biggest headlines coming on the one weekend in October 2003 when two trains derailed at Hammersmith and Camden.
  • The performance figures for the Infracos, which showed they had paid out loads more money in penalties than they had 'won' in bonuses.
  • The smaller-scale cock-ups, from brackets left sticking out of tunnel walls to snow left blocking the tracks.
  • The everyday

A Workers' and Passengers' Plan

Published on: Tue, 29/06/2004 - 00:00

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

Rail Unions in Politics: the Future

Published on: Mon, 28/06/2004 - 00:00

One of the reasons that Blair was able to push through PPP is that the trade union bureaucracy allowed him to. RMT's Vernon Hince gave Blair an easy ride during his years on Labour's Executive. Although there was more protest noise during Mick Rix's reign, ASLEF has put up little fight within Labour. And TSSA has been so compliant that the Government has rewarded its former General Secretary Richard Rosser with a seat in the House of Lords.

This weak and deferential betrayal of rail workers looks set to continue with TSSA's and ASLEF's new General Secretaries, unless members force a change.

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