Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/349/5789
Tube Workers Ballot For Action
RAIL, MARITIME and Transport Workers' Union (RMT) members on London Underground are to be balloted for strike action over pay. Action could take place on 10 June, the day of the Greater London Assembly elections when Ken Livingstone will be seeking re-election as London's mayor.
Bill Johnson, RMT member
Livingstone has said he wants a long-term pay deal on London Underground to ensure there are no more strikes. In response, RMT has told Livingstone he must honour the previous agreements to work towards a 35-hour week for all staff. At the moment station staff are still working a 37.5-hour week while other grades work 35 hours.
RMT has also raised the idea of a four-day working week. This could still amount to 35 hours with four longer duties rather than five. But the additional rest day would be welcomed by workers who have to put up with a difficult and constantly changing shift pattern.
The union's other major demand is for a £22,000 starting salary for Station Assistants. These members currently earn just under £20,000 and many find it impossible to find housing in London. A significant cash increase is also sought for other grades.
Management have sought to delay negotiations and put off any dispute until after Livingstone's election on 10 June. A pay rise was due on 1 April and under pressure from RMT, London Underground have now indicated they may be prepared to offer 3% in return for over 800 job cuts.
This derisory 'offer' is in line with similarly ludicrous proposals from the private companies (infracos) that are now responsible for engineering on the tube.
The ballot will cover all RMT members working directly for London Underground, while members working for the 'infracos' are to be balloted for action short of a strike.
The issue of the shorter working week together with similar issues over staff travel facilities and pensions are still outstanding from previous pay deals and tube workers cannot wait any longer.
Productivity on London Underground has risen over the last decade with passenger miles and revenue per worker up sharply.
The Socialist Party, through its bulletin The Red Line, is urging that management must not be allowed to delay the ballot or put off action on the tube unless they give cast-iron guarantees to meet RMT's demands. Many members in the infracos will be disappointed that their ballot will be for action short of a strike.
This may reflect the belief of some in the union that maintenance and engineering workers will cause more problems by adopting a prolonged overtime ban or other work to rule, than would be the result of one day on strike. However, unity between all RMT members is essential in this dispute and it would be better to have everyone out together, on picket lines and showing our collective will to win.
A strike across all grades could still be supplemented by working to rule.
But despite this reservation, strike action by London Underground grades will still paralyse the tube.
If Ken Livingstone wants industrial peace on the tube as a re-election slogan he is going to have do much better than this.
In The Socialist 29 May 2004:
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