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Tube Strike 'Solid'
A 24-HOUR strike by London Underground workers on 24 and 25 September saw only a handful of the 600 drivers crossing picket lines.
No trains could run. London Underground have imposed a 3% pay rise and have refused to go to arbitration. Another 24-hour strike is planned for 1/2 October.
THE PICKET at Stratford tube station in east London was kept up from 4.30am to 9am and restarted from noon. The strike was absolutely solid. No potential scabs showed up, so no one needed to be turned away.
By Manny Thain
Pete and Graham, London Underground drivers and RMT members, were on the picket line at the Jubilee Line depot in Stratford. They explained how the strike was for more pay.
Pete has been working on the Underground for over ten years and in that time has received only two real wage increases.
All the other settlements have merely kept pace with inflation, or have actually fallen below the inflation rate.
Management complain that the drivers and other staff are well paid, especially when compared with other public-sector workers in London. But Pete and Graham said these other public-sector workers are badly paid and should get more - especially nurses and firefighters.
Pay is the issue but anger has been fuelled by other problems. There is constant harassment by management. They've employed a new layer of managers with no experience in the industry, who try to exert bullyboy pressure.
There is pressure to cut corners on safety, like being asked to drive a train with defective brakes, for example.
One driver who has worked on the Underground for over 20 years with an exemplary employment record is being disciplined for the amount of time he has had to take off, due to prostate cancer!
Privatisation hasn't happened because of the resistance put up by the tube workers workers. Privatisation would be a disaster for safety, working conditions and pay.
The government is behind the employers and neither wants a high wage settlement.
The government because it wants to keep public-sector wage deals down and the potential private employers because they don't want to have to pay their other employees comparative rates.
Pete and Graham will both be out on picket lines this week, both believe the action must continue.
They pointed out that relations between the two main rail unions RMT and ASLEF are good on the shopfloor level and have improved since the election of Bob Crow and Mick Rix as leaders.
AN EIGHTEEN year-old station assistant talked to PAULA MITCHELL on the Leytonstone picket line - her first day on the job!
"The human resources manager tried to scare new recruits into going in by saying it would go on our files.
But everyone in my training group said they wouldn't go in. The managers said it was nothing to do with us because we've just started but it's about our pay as well.
When I first saw the pay scales I thought it was a lot of money for the job but after the training I realised it isn't."
Class Warfare On London's Tube
IF THE new upturn in trade union militancy is a reminder of the 1970s then so is the dirty propaganda war, waged against striking workers, by the right-wing press.
Bill Johnson, RMT
In the last 12 months The Rail Maritime and Transport Workers' union (RMT) has been accused of working with Al-Qa'ida, planning a strike on 11 September and intimidating tube-workers who want to go to work.
Tube-workers in both RMT and ASLEF unions have taken two days of strike action over the past two weeks to try to make a belligerent management negotiate on pay.
Underground management won't negotiate because they have contractually agreed with the private firms taking over the Underground's infrastructure (through the PPP scheme) that the pay of staff remaining with London Underground Limited (LUL) won't increase above 'the market rate'.
The private firms have demanded this veto so as their own staff won't be encouraged by LUL settlements to seek significant pay rises of their own.
Management are determined to tame the unions ready for privatisation, where over 2,000 workers' jobs are to transfer to private contractors. Their refusal to go to arbitration breaks with the established practice of recent years.
This has been accompanied by threats of disciplinary action against striking workers and management propaganda attacking RMT General Secretary, Bob Crow, faxed to stations. Recognising this Bob Crow has called on activists to 'clear the decks' for this crucial fight.
RMT activists will take up this fight. Crow is right to see the dispute as an attack on future of the unions on London Underground. But despite this the leaders of both RMT and ASLEF are trying to keep the disputes over pay and privatisation separate.
Many union members see privatisation as an even more important issue than pay and cannot understand why we are not continuing our fight against PPP as part of our strike action.
If management are forced to move on pay the unions should push home the advantage and demand a halt to PPP before calling off action. It was management who raised the stakes and politicised this dispute - the unions must respond in kind.
In The Socialist 4 October 2002: