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From The Socialist newspaper, 21 July 2010

Strike action wins at Tube Lines

Tube Lines is one of the maintenance companies on London Underground. The recent strikes and subsequent victory for the workforce were, on the face of it, about pay, job security and changes to working hours. But, as in all disputes, this was not the full story.

Steve Hedley, Regional Organiser, London Transport RMT

For years, management have bullied the staff, disregarded agreements and treated the elected reps with contempt. The straw that broke the camel's back was management offering a derisory 1% pay offer and attempting to tear up people's terms and conditions.

The RMT initiated a ballot on the request of the reps and this resulted in over 90% mandate to strike. Unsurprisingly the pay offer went up to 3.5% and concessions were made on rostering. But there was no guarantee on jobs.

On the eve of the first strike Tube Lines bosses threatened to withdraw their pay offer if we didn't sign immediately. We were not about to blink first and sent them packing. The 48-hour strike over 23-25 July was a tremendous success.

Train drivers and some station staff refused to work on safety grounds as the emergency response unit was on strike. Senior management went into meltdown, threatening to sue the RMT regional organiser for instigating secondary action. The organiser explained that people were acting lawfully in refusing to work when they felt they were in serious and imminent danger.

Managers threatened to withdraw the legally enshrined refusal to work policy. This was met by demands from branches to ballot the whole of London Underground (LUL) on the grounds that management was trying to kill us. LUL backed down.

Then Tube Lines negotiators returned to the table, stripped of their former bravado, and offered 4.5% with RPI plus 0.5% for the next two years. They withdrew the roster change proposals and gave a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies on all operational staff and managers.

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