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From The Socialist newspaper, 31 March 2010

Fight the decimation of London tube jobs

Anyone watching the news over the last week could not have failed to notice the saturation coverage depicting British Airways workers and RMT members as mad militants intent on destroying their companies and indeed threatening civilisation as we know it.

Reg Johnstone

The rail union RMT was depicted as trying to wreck people's Easter holidays in calling its first national rail strike for 16 years. Leaders of the RMT and TSSA unions said they would not call a strike over Easter so as not to disrupt the holidays of working people. They called action just after Easter. Then Bob Crow and the RMT were portrayed as trying to wreck Labour's chances in the general election.

But what really is at stake? On the one hand you have managers, usually very well paid, stating that we are in a recession and we have to make cutbacks, take wage cuts, lose some of our holidays, lose our pensions and be thankful if there are jobs left at the end. On the other side you have trade unions attempting to defend conditions won by workers' struggles over many years.

No worker gratuitously takes strike action, to lose three or four days pay is a sacrifice. Strike action is taken after all other methods are exhausted.

My job in London Underground is on the 'front line' dealing with passengers. There are between three and four million passengers a day using London Underground and around 5,000 front line staff dealing with the demands of customers. Front line staff also have to deal with train incidents, such as suicides, fights or other occurences, the worst being the London bombings. Also passengers, especially vulnerable people, value fully staffed stations, they feel secure if they are not travelling alone.

Between 500 and 700 front line jobs are threatened on London Underground, quite literally decimation. At risk is the safety of the travelling public and also of train operators who will, if the cuts go ahead, be driving through unstaffed or understaffed stations. Our dispute is not over money, it is over a defence of our working conditions, it is also over the health and safety of our members and of the travelling public.

The cutbacks are taking place because of the hundreds of millions of pounds that were given to private companies Metronet and Tubelines under the disastrous PPP privatisation package forced on the Underground by the then Labour Chancellor Gordon Brown.

There is an alternative, London Underground and indeed all the national rail companies should be nationalised and run as non profit making organisations, providing cheap and efficient travel for both work and leisure.

The government can find billions for the bankers, illegal wars or for a new Trident system, the shortfall of London Underground and national rail is a small amount in comparison.

While we are at it, let's renationalise our buses. British Airways should also be nationalised, then we could build a fully integrated, fully staffed, efficient and cheap national transport system.

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In The Socialist 31 March 2010:

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