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From The Socialist newspaper, 20 January 2016

RMT and Aslef picket line at Barking tube station, 6.8.2015, photo Sharon Walsh

RMT and Aslef picket line at Barking tube station, 6.8.2015, photo Sharon Walsh   (Click to enlarge)

Tube workers to strike again to defend jobs and conditions

By a tube worker

Members of London Underground (LU) unions the RMT, Aslef and TSSA will take strike action on 26-27 January and again on 16-17 February and 18-19 February in an ongoing dispute over the imposition of all night running. The fourth tube union Unite has suspended its action for further talks.

As plans stand, workers could end up working more nights and weekends than at present. As the unions keep pointing out to management's spokespeople in the media, tube workers already work shifts around the clock and at weekends but the new plans could seriously erode what work/life balance tube workers currently manage to achieve.

Job cuts

The picture at stations is even more serious. 838 jobs are being cut yet the media continues to trot out the tired old lies that more staff will be available to help passengers at stations. LU's own roster documents prove that many stations will have as many as half their current positions abolished.

On top of a reduction in numbers, a new grading system is being imposed which forces individuals to take on new responsibilities with no increase in pay. This will mean cutting the rate for the job by between 5,000 and 7,000.

Previous strikes forced LU to back down from launching night services last October and attempts to impose pay cuts for existing staff. They also won a limit on how far staff can be moved from current work locations.

However, LU has failed to honour commitments it gave to maintain weekends off work and has, at the last moment, made new demands to renegotiate agreements that protect job numbers and promotion opportunities in the future.

Tube unions are demanding that LU stop the imposition of rosters and working arrangements that breach current agreements. Talks are ongoing at Acas and could yet produce further movement from LU although it looks likely that strikes will go ahead.

Unity in the dispute is welcomed by members of all four LU unions. But the resistance of tube workers is limited by divisions between the unions.

RMT has fought a valiant battle but has been held back by unilateral decisions to withdraw from action by other unions at key points in the disputes. Even an alliance of all four tube unions would face a massive battle to reverse current cuts to the tube.

Less government funding

A 4 billion cuts programme has been imposed on LU by central government via the mayor of London. Now the government is demanding a further 40% spending cut by LU over four years.

These new cuts would abolish government support for day to day operations which is an unprecedented demand. Metro systems in New York and Paris still receive grants well in excess of the support currently given to LU.

It is therefore all the more essential that unions representing London busworkers are brought into discussions on resistance to these funding cuts.

Pushing back government austerity must not be left to the tube unions. If the TUC refuses to build this resistance then individual unions must make alliances and strike together.

As RMT executive member John Reid comments: "We need strong and decisive action which will bring London to a standstill, to fight against austerity and for the future of one of the most powerful sections of the organised working class in London."

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In The Socialist 20 January 2016:

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Momentum and democracy in Hackney and beyond

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Workplace news in brief

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USA: Fight the billionaire class!

China: Financial turmoil spreads fear across global markets

Northern Ireland: Defy anti-abortion laws

Socialist Party comments and reviews

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