Helen Pattison, London Socialist Party secretary
Tube workers in London are facing some of the biggest attacks in decades. The RMT union, having staved off many attacks during Boris Johnson’s time as London mayor, now faces a huge battle for their members’ pay, pensions and conditions under Labour’s Sadiq Khan.
The rotten Tory government has demanded huge cuts to Transport for London’s budget in the capital. Rather than take the fight to the Tories, Khan has chosen to carry out these cuts and oppose strike action by RMT members fighting to defend their jobs.
Having a Labour mayor has not protected transport workers from the Tory government. Instead of attacking the unions and cutting services, Khan should be mobilising the support of workers and the public to demand the funding needed from central government.
The only solution to the funding crisis is for the government to accept that self-funding of London’s public transport system can’t work. Proper funding of public transport is needed, and an end to the gravy train of public money going to shareholders of the private rail sector.
This battle is starting with two days of strike action on 1 and 3 March. But this will have to be the beginning of a determined struggle. The RMT has a huge mandate for action and is leading the way. But tube workers aren’t the only transport workers who are angry. Workers on National Rail are facing a pay freeze. Bus drivers have been let down by ‘son of a bus driver’ Khan, who failed to implement Covid safety on the buses, is planning cuts to routes, and is not standing up to attacks from the bus companies.
On Woolwich Ferry, workers have faced down victimisation, and the battle continues on issues of pay and safety. Action across the network could be posed to win the funding needed for a decent transport system in the city, which protects jobs and services.
There is also huge public anger that ticket prices are going to increase, while a reduction in services is being mooted. The pandemic has shown how fragile the network will be without sustained funding. But none of the political parties are going to fight for proper renationalisation and the funding that is needed.
The RMT has been a part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) from the start. A bold anti-austerity and trade union stand in May, can back up the important strike action workers are having to take.