by Caroline Colebrook

LONDON UNDERGROUND unions RMT and TSSA last Wednesday saluted their 11,000 striking members for a “rock solid” strike against proposed job cuts that would jeopardise safety for passengers and workers.

The proposed cuts would cost 800 jobs and leave many stations unstaffed and with closed booking offices. This makes stations a lot less safe, especially for vulnerable passengers.

A survey last month found that large areas of the London Underground network are still very difficult for wheelchair users to access. This is likely to seriously impair London’s fitness to host the Para-Olympics in 2012.

The 24-hour strike has had a devastating effect on the capital’s economic activity. Transport for London (TfL) had laid on hundreds of extra buses, river boats and bicycles but most commuters still found it a long and difficult struggle to get into work.

TFL claimed some Tube services were running — exaggerating as usual — but they did not have much impact on the chaos because many of the stations they passed through were closed.

RMT and TSSA said they had successfully turned the spotlight on cuts to safe staffing levels and which has ratcheted up the pressure on Boris Johnson and his transport officials to drop their plans and start talking seriously about a safe and secure future for the tube network.

next phase

RMT said on Wednesday that the next phase of action, an indefinite overtime ban for both unions, is already underway, is being fully supported and will begin to impact on the ability of tube management to maintain a full service.

The next 24 hours of strike action will begin at 17:00 hours on 3rd October for ex-Metronet maintenance staff to be followed by all other staff grades (including drivers, signallers, station staff and managers) from 21:00 hours.

RMT has repeated its calls for meaningful talks to begin but has made it clear that it is impossible to have constructive discussions while cuts are already being smuggled in via the back door without any reference to agreed negotiating machinery.

death trap

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “RMT and TSSA members have shown through their solid support for this week’s strike action, and the indefinite overtime ban, that they will not sit idly by while staffing levels are hacked to the bone and management turn the tube system into a death trap through their dash for cuts.

“LU bosses have admitted through the course of the strike that there are far worse cuts to come this autumn and we already have examples of fleet and track maintenance schedules being ripped apart.

“The LU claim that they are not planning to run unstaffed stations have been exposed as bogus. We already have examples of stations being run unstaffed on a regular basis in contravention of all safety practice and that scandal will escalate as management try to smuggle their cuts in via the back door though the non-filling of vacancies.

“Staffing levels are already at critical point and the talks must be reconvened on the basis that the backdoor introduction of cuts without negotiation and without agreement is brought to a halt. This on-going dispute is about the long-term future of a safe and secure tube system — these finance-driven, piecemeal cuts are a disaster waiting to happen.”

TSSA deputy leader Manuel Cortes said: “It is clear that the Tories are running scared. They know how unpopular the Mayor’s cuts to ticket offices are. However, rather than stand-up to Boris, they are burying their heads in the sand in the vain hope that the issue will just go away.


“This morning’s protest by disabled Londoners shows how Boris’s cuts will hit the most vulnerable. Boris made a political decision to forgo £55 million pounds per year by not implementing the western extension of the congestion charge. Yet he is now trying to save £16 million a year by shutting booking offices that benefit all Londoners. So much for all of us being in this together!”

He was speaking of the lobby by disabled transport users at London’s City Hall on Monday in support of the strike.

The press, as expected, has attacked the strike and tried to demonise the leaders, especially Bob Crow. But the success of their strike sends a message to all other workers — in the public and private sectors — of the power of strike action in the fight to defend jobs and services.