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London Underground: RMT second strike against savage cuts
A second two-day strike began last night of RMT members on London's tubes, bringing the underground system largely to a halt.
After eight weeks of negotiations following the first strike, London Underground management was still saying that every ticket office will close by the end of 2015.
It plans to cut nearly 1,800 frontline staff and create 900 new managers. As well as safety on the tube being jeopardised, many staff face being downgraded and having pay cuts.
Not only has London Underground failed to enter into meaningful talks, it has even tendered for driverless trains.
A further strike will run from 5 to 8 May.
Striking RMT members got a very good response from the public at Whitechapel tube this morning. Lots of people said they don't want the ticket offices closed and they are worried about safety on the stations with less staff.
Many people signed a petition in support of the strike, including members of the NUT and Unison unions who said they wished their unions were on strike too. The idea of united union action went down really well with those who stopped.
Even the cafe next door to the tube, which has supported the campaign to keep Whitechapel ticket office open, including taking petitions and surveys for customers to sign, was showing its support with a "strike special" offer on tea and coffee!
Len Rowlands, RMT picket Whitechapel station & TUSC candidate St Peter's ward, Tower Hamlets, photo N Byron (Click to enlarge)
Most of the tube lines were showing "no service" before the electronic board in the station went on strike too. Today's strike is solid.
One of the striking RMT members who normally works at Whitechapel, Len Rowlands, is standing for TUSC in St Peter's ward, right next to the tube station.
He certainly got a few more votes this morning. We said: "Who would you rather have in the council, a trade unionist like Len who stands up and fights the cuts, or a career politician?" Simple, really.
Other RMT strikers volunteered to help Len with the campaign.
A confident picket at Morden depot was buoyed by the news that 14 Northern line stations were closed.
Even with the RMT striking alone (the TSSA union joined the strike last time) the strike had a similar impact to before.
About 15 pickets were out at London Bridge, a major commuter station for both 'City gents' and workers.
Pickets say the response has been good. One Tory toff sneered at the pickets saying "I suppose you're getting a lot of support". "Yes thanks", said the pickets. "Well, they're obviously as ****ing stupid as you are", the toff replied.
This level of debate met with laughter. Pickets said people often didn't realise what management has in mind for passengers. The busy Embankment station, for example, is closed for escalator repairs until November but management wants to reopen it without a ticket office. Workers are fighting to win.
There were 12 RMT members on the picket line at Leytonstone today. Trains for much of the rush hour were only going out to Epping and Hainault as managers couldn't get staff to open stations in and towards central London on the Central Line.
There was disappointment that TSSA had not rejoined the strikes and bemusement that they seemed to be suggesting that progress was being made in the talks.
In fact, with the ordering of driverless trains, the possibility of involving Aslef was posed, but many Aslef drivers "seemed to have their heads in the sand", as one picket put it.
This threat by London Underground should be used to widen the strike to all Underground unions, particularly as there is also a pensions battle looming.
North west London
We visited picket lines at Edgware Road, Queens Park, Neasden and Acton Bollo Lane depot.
The picket lines were still solid and were pleased to see support from the Socialist Party. At Edgware Road the picket line was visited by two late-night early-morning partygoers. When they realised it was a tube workers' picket line they were very supportive even though it meant they had difficulty getting home.
At this and the other picket lines workers were angry about RMT rep Mark Harding's bail conditions and his court case, seeing this as a big attack on trade union rights [Mark was arrested on picket duty during the last strike].
At the Queens Park and Neasden picket lines the issue of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) standing candidates in the forthcoming council elections was met with a positive response, with some of the workers saying that they would probably vote TUSC.
We literally had a very warm response with a brazier keeping out the early morning chill and sausage rolls being offered round.
At Neasden station probably over 100 potential passengers were queuing up unable to get in when they normally would.
At Acton, four of the five TUSC RMT candidates standing in Hillingdon were on the picket line. They reported how one of the scabs who crossed the picket line was obviously so ashamed at what he was doing that he tried to hide himself by ducking down in the back of the car he was in when it drove through.
The pickets also reported that at Northfields picket line three drivers were persuaded not to cross the picket line.
Chris Newby and Neil Cafferky
Stratford at 6.30am