Tube workers on London Underground are staging a series of one-day network-wide strikes over the imposition of night-working arrangements. John Weebol, a member of the TSSA union in London, explains how this action comes after 18 months of attempting to negotiate with London Underground (LU) management.
Tube workers on London Underground are staging a series of one-day network-wide strikes over the imposition of night-working arrangements. This action comes after 18 months of attempting to negotiate with London Underground (LU) management. The London Underground’s management have failed to meaningfully negotiate or consult with the recognised trades unions for months, mirroring what TfL have done with surface staff and with our colleagues on the buses.
Tube staff work to keep London moving day in, day out. Often at work before 5am, they can be found helping passengers get home safely in the early hours. We cope with an ever-increasing numbers of passengers – 100 million more in just the last five years – and are happy to do so. We don’t mind working these hours, or the even longer ones due to the Night Tube. All tube workers ask for is a sensible solution to the safety implications of the Night Tube, honest negotiations, and a reasonable settlement on pay and hours.
The strike action centre’s around concerns and issues on the Underground that are common to both staff and commuters, and not – as management and their
kept and prostitute press state – purely pay. Lurid reports in the press about rich tube drivers fall short of the mark, as many Underground staff earn far less than figures quoted; and, in any case, pay is only a small part of the issue.
The key issues that the dispute is around are:
- Safety concerns about the introduction of Night Tube services: LU is seeking to introduce Night Tube services without meaningful consultation on key aspects of health and safety, putting both staff and passengers at risk.
- Ticket office closures and staff cuts: these continue and LU has not complied with previous agreements. Again this is a potential safety issue for staff and general public alike.
- Payments for night-working: LU has offered only one-off, non-pensionable payments in return for staff implementing and delivering Night Tube services and increased night working – for the rest of their working lives – on the LU.
- Significant changes to working practices: LU is disregarding existing agreements and working arrangements, and seeking to make changes without meaningful negotiations.
In the five months since the RMT, TSSA, UNITE and ASLEF unions began pay talks with London Underground, LU management have been lacklustre in their engagement, and have insisted that any settlement on pay was conditional upon reaching an agreement on Night Tube services. This is on the back of attacks on TfL surface staffm who have seen their pension and consolidated pay disappear, as well as attacks on bus workers’ terms and conditions being eroded by outsourced contractors.
Industrial relations generally in TfL are poor, as management try to force through issues without proper discussion and negotiation. Yesterday’s strike action followed industrial action ballots, in which members of all four recognised LU trades unions voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action.
It is clear that – across the board in TfL Surface and Underground, and on the buses – the TfL bosses are determined to stick the boot in and attack and undermine terms and conditions of staff, egged on by the right-wing government of Cameron, who is backing Mayor Boris “haircut” Johnson in his attacks on TfL staff.
The tube workers’ action needs to be stepped up with more mobilisation days. But the unions need to also recognise that isolated strike action by key workers is not
the answer. A strike across all modes of TfL needs to be organised by the four main unions, involving not just Tube workers, but all underground staff, TfL surface and the buses, in a united struggle to defend our common interests. Such a strike would bring London to a grinding halt and force TfL to adopt a more consilatory attitude in the process.
More importantly, united action across all transport workers would also clearly indicate who really keeps London – and the rest of society – going…and it’s not the worthless spiv’s and property speculators, who infest the City’s Square Mile like rats!