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Powerful strike stops the tube

by Matthew Cookson

Tube workers picketing at Mile End station, east London, on Tuesday of this week  (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Tube workers picketing at Mile End station, east London, on Tuesday of this week (Pic: Socialist Worker)


A strike for jobs and safety on London Underground rocked the capital for 24 hours on Monday and Tuesday.

Around 10,000 RMT and TSSA union members walked out over bosses’ plans to cut 800 station staff jobs and reduce ticket office opening hours.

The tube fightback is also important because it raises the banner of resistance to cuts and to workers being made to pay for the economic crisis.

The strike had a severe impact on the tube network. Almost every line suffered from full or partial suspension and many stations were closed.

Bosses claimed that the Northern Line had a “good service”—yet many stations on the line were closed.

The RMT has accused London Underground of playing “fast and loose” with safety during the strike by asking for volunteers to run services regardless of whether they have the necessary operational licences.

Pickets were out in force and were extremely concerned about how the job cuts will impact on the service they provide.

Strikers at Monument station told Socialist Worker, “Because this is a strike for safety many passengers support us.

Emergency

“This station, which is linked to Bank, has six lines and ten platforms. In an emergency we have to get people out from the lower levels. We have been trained to do that.

“Would the managers in there today be able to evacuate the station properly”

Taimoor, a striker at another station, explained, “Every morning there are passengers ill on trains or security alerts. We are trained to deal with those situations. What will happen if there are less staff?”

“They’re making these job cuts now so that they can get rid of us all in the future,” added striker Nicky. “They’ll make it like the DLR or national rail stations where there are no staff on stations.

“The Tories are even talking about having driverless trains.

“At the moment, disabled and blind people are helped by staff members. There’ll be no one to help them in the future.”

“If jobs are lost it will mean a decrease in safety,” said Gavin, an RMT rep. “In 2005 there were 10,700 reported crimes against passengers on London Underground.

“The number of staff increased after that and by 2009 there was a 23 percent decrease.

“Staff members noticed a man entering Moorgate station on 28 August with a samurai sword and other bladed weapons. He was later found to have had loaded guns.

Solid

“What would the outcome have been if there had been no staff to observe him when he entered the station?”

Workers were glad that two unions were striking together.

“It means we will have a more solid effect,” said Agustin, a TSSA member.

“Tough words are not enough. We need to strike.”

The tube workers’ action was boosted by a strike by Alstom train maintainers the previous day over pay (see page 15).

Union members hoped that management would see sense after their powerful strike—but they were also determined to keep up the action.

Further action is planned for Sunday 3 October, Tuesday 2 November and Sunday 28 November.

London mayor Boris Johnson and tube bosses are intent on driving the cuts through and the Tories plan even more cuts after the 20 October spending review.

This means that it will take harder-hitting action, including action for more than one day, for tube workers to win.

Unite union members will hold a lobby next week against more transport cuts, this time on London buses. Assemble 9.30am, Wednesday 15 September at City Hall, central London.

Strikers make their message clear at Monument station  (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Strikers make their message clear at Monument station (Pic: Socialist Worker)



Article information

News
Tue 7 Sep 2010, 17:52 BST
Issue No. 2218
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