RMT forces London Underground to back down

Bill Johnson, RMT

RMT has won important changes in London Underground’s (LU) proposals for job cuts and re-organisation on the tube.

In spite of the other tube unions leaving RMT to fight alone, at this stage the two-day strike that caused massive disruption to the tube network on 29-30 April forced LU to back down, at least temporarily. In return RMT has suspended its further strike action due to take place 6-8 May.

LU has now made a real commitment to ensure that no one whose job is abolished will lose pay. LU had previously told staff that it wanted to be able to promise that but refused to give a commitment, in spite of repeated demands from tube unions, until RMT forced the issue with strike action in April.

The company has also agreed to a wider mandate for its station by station review of its plans. This means RMT and other unions will be able to raise objections to the impact of proposals on displacement and relocation of members, the ability of members to run stations and ticket selling arrangements.

There are many other outstanding issues, in particular proposed pay rates for new grades. But the latest movement by LU in response to solid strike action is encouraging and should give confidence to tube workers that the union can resist LU’s plans.

Last week LU had demanded that RMT “settle” its dispute with the company in return for any changes to LU’s proposals. The union, quite rightly, refused this. After LU saw how effective RMT’s action was, even without the support of other unions, they dropped this demand in order to get the three days of action scheduled for 6-8 May suspended. As a result RMT can put on further strikes if the station by station review does not restore jobs and ticket offices.

LU not only has its eyes on ticket office staff. It is also tendering for driverless trains and is planning billions of pounds of cuts. The RMT will continue its tradition of defending its members’ jobs and conditions and the London Underground as a service. This may include further strike action, which should involve the other tube unions.