Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/795/18029
Transport workers have power to defeat cuts
Paula Mitchell, London Socialist Party regional secretary
Almost 1,000 jobs to go, all ticket offices to be closed (despite 71% public opposition), some workers to lose as much as £10,000, new grades to be introduced on lower wages.
This is what faces Londoners if the Underground workers lose the battle which looms over the city.
It's the bosses and their political representatives versus one of the strongest trade unions.
Rail and tube workers are like the miners in the past - decent wages, good holiday entitlement and other terms - all hard-won and maintained by a strong union organisation that is prepared to fight for its members.
Smash that and it's open season on the rest of the working class in London. But the rail unions can bring the city to a standstill. They have the biggest industrial power in London and the potential to defeat Johnson.
As we go to press the RMT are in discussions at Acas. Members will expect the union to exhaust every possibility to negotiate.
But when the bosses offer nothing, an attack on this scale needs a response by the might of the organised working class.
On 16 January a public rally organised by the RMT-initiated campaign, Hands Off London Transport, took place.
On the platform were rail union reps Mick Cash, RMT assistant general secretary, and Manuel Cortez, general secretary of rail union TSSA.
They were joined by speakers from the Disabled People's Against Cuts (DPAC), National Pensioners Convention, the Green Party and Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn.
From the floor, Steve Hedley, assistant general secretary of the RMT, welcomed the support from all these groups, but stressed that what will smash these cuts is the power of the union and the working class.
Backing up this point, Linda Taaffe, secretary of the National Shop Stewards Network, argued that this is a fight for all trade unions; the Tories and the bosses want to smash the RMT to be a lesson to every other trade unionist.
Linda drew on the example of the miners' strike in the 1980s. "There was no lack of commitment from miners and from ordinary people.
"What was lacking was support from other unions. That is the lesson we need to learn, to raise this fight to a different level."
That is what made the contributions of Manuel Cortez, Chris Baugh, assistant general secretary of the civil service union PCS, and Martin Powell-Davies from the NUT executive (there in a personal capacity) so important.
Manuel declared his union's aim to strike on the same day as the RMT, to stand shoulder to shoulder, and said what was needed was to link up with other workers in the public and private sectors.
From the floor Chris Baugh announced that PCS members in the Met Police were aiming to coordinate action on the same day as the RMT.
He said all the unions needed to synchronise action and called for a 24-hour general strike. Martin Powell-Davies explained the need for the NUT to approach RMT, PCS, higher education unions, etc, to bring everyone together.
A public campaign is important because London's Tory Mayor Boris Johnson and the right-wing press like the Evening Standard will whip up a campaign against tube workers. Everyone across London will be affected by this dispute.
An appeal to all workers across London from the rail unions is needed. Urgent discussions with key trade unions, especially with bus drivers organised in Unite, will be the start to mobilising the working class of London behind the tube workers.
But what's most important is the power of the Underground workers themselves. The national leadership of the RMT needs to lead from the front in preparing members including with workplace meetings, building up confidence that they can win and steeling them for the battle ahead.
For London public meetings on the tube strikes, see:
In The Socialist 22 January 2014:
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Readers' comments and reviews