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From The Socialist newspaper, 2 April 2008

Tube workers strike to defend network safety

Bob Crow, rail union RMT general secretary, announced at a press conference on 29 March that RMT and TSSA London Underground members would take 72 hours of continuous strike action from 6:30pm on Sunday 6 April.

Greg Maughan

RMT and TSSA are the two biggest trade unions organised on London Underground. The action has been called over a raft of safety and staffing issues and Bob insisted: "Tube workers will not stand idly by while the security of the network is compromised by managers who clearly believe that staff and passenger safety can be looked after on the cheap."

Management are proposing to close 39 ticket offices and cut the opening hours of 32 others. Nearly 300 ticket office jobs will be lost and over 200 stations will be affected, as passengers lose an important source of help and information.

Management also want to introduce "mobile supervisors" responsible for several stations, which is another risk to safety.

More than 7,500 staff across the network will strike. Bob stated that the whole network will be affected but that "cavalier bosses" may try to run a strike-breaking skeleton service.

In the Communication Workers Union dispute last year, unqualified and inexperienced managers drove mail vans in an attempt to break the strike, including one incident where a manager ran someone over! This exposes the lie that we can rely on the bosses to guarantee our safety. More days at work are lost each year as a result of industrial injury and negligent employers than are lost through strike action.

This strike takes place in the run up to the London mayoral election. The reactionary Tory candidate Boris Johnson has called for a no-strike clause to be introduced on London Underground. In response to this Bob insisted: "We'll never give up the right to strike, it's a human right - something that can't be taken away from us. Certainly, no Mayor of London can take that right away. If you ban people from taking strike action they will take unofficial strike action. What'll they do about it? Put me in jail?"

The action of the RMT and TSSA on 6-9 April will be a very important strike. In a climate where both Johnson and current London mayor Ken Livingstone have attempted to vilify the RMT to varying degrees, support from other trade unionists, socialists and bodies such as the National Shop Stewards Network will be particularly important.

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