London Underground: Strike Back Against Privatisation

EVERY WARNING has been ignored and the result is exactly as the rail unions said all along. Two derailments on London Underground within 36 hours show that tube safety has been sacrificed on the altar of privatisation and profit.

By a London tube worker

The timing couldn’t be more embarrassing for the government. Just as Network Rail is being forced to sack Jarvis and all the other private firms from maintenance contracts, the private infracos have shown that the same mayhem they inflicted on the mainline railways is been repeated on the tube.

All the tube unions should recognise that now’s the time to defeat PPP for good. The government’s privatisation policy is hanging by a thread. Even the Financial Times concedes that: “the experiment of private rail maintenance is over.”

So far the RMT’s executive is the only union to call for action against PPP after derailments at Hammersmith and Camden. Members of other tube unions must demand their leaderships join the RMT in balloting members for action.

London Underground (LUL) refuses to meet union demands to bring back 24-hour track inspections, for immediate speed restrictions where problems are found and for all work to be carried out by qualified LUL staff.


The RMT ballot will ask members to support two types of action; strike action and industrial action short of strike action (probably including working to rule such as drivers going at caution speed).

Socialist Party members on the tube fully support both forms of action. Driving at caution speed is fully justified after the derailments. How can anyone be confident that our track is safe?

But RMT’s campaign should start with a one-day strike across all infracos and LUL. A strike will show the unity of all grades, engineering, stations and train operators and will also make the issues clear to the public.

‘Yes’ vote

The anti-union laws mean it will take weeks to organise a ballot. This time can be used to build support for a ‘yes’ vote and successful strike. Following this action we should return on our terms, operating in whatever way we consider safe.

We must also send a warning to LUL and prepare our members for further action should management try to stand down or discipline any members working to rule.

This is now the decisive moment in our fight against the government’s privatisation of our tube system. Winning will require determination and almost certainly more extensive strike action than one or two days over several months.

However, the small sacrifice of taking this action now could defeat PPP, stop management’s anti-worker business agenda in its tracks and secure the publicly run, safe tube system we all want to see.

We say:

  • Name the date for a one-day strike across all grades
  • Follow strike with work to rule including driving at caution speed
  • Call mass meetings to build support
  • Appeal to rank and file members of Aslef, TSSA and other unions on engineering side for solidarity action
  • No concessions on union demands – Fight to finish off PPP