Workers in various London transport companies and grades are planning industrial action as union efforts bring long-running demands to a head.
RMT London Underground service control members (signal operators, line controllers, etc) have won some important demands for job security, and a planned three-day strike will not now go ahead. The company intended to use the opening of the new Hammersmith Service Control Centre in 2015 as a pretext to keep the staff they wanted and ditch those they did not, and to reshape the service control function in a way that undermines effective trade unionism. RMT demanded — and won — protection of career paths, lifetime protection of earnings and union agreement to staff movements. Service control staff will now keep their rate of pay (and pension) permanently even if they are displaced into a lower grade.
A service control RMT rep told Solidarity, “Service control workers across London Underground have shown our solidarity and support to each other by gaining a tremendous victory against hostile LU management, in winning what must be a once-in-a-lifetime guarantee of earnings protection.
“There can be no doubt that London Underground saw no alternative but to give in to our demands when they realised that their managers could not the skilled jobs that members do on a daily basis when we announced a three-day strike.”
Meanwhile, ASLEF has abandoned its fight for the reinstatement of Piccadilly line driver Charlie Savvides, who London Underground sacked after he made a driving error. A planned one-day strike on the line would have been supported by members of RMT as well as ASLEF, but the Society called it off for what seems to be a relatively small payout for Charlie. A Piccadilly line driver told Solidarity, “Most drivers on the line feel that Charlie has been badly let down. His union has not run much of a campaign, in contrast to the successful RMT campaigns last year which won the reinstatement of Eamonn Lynch, Arwyn Thomas and others.”
With just a month until the Olympics start, talks between transport employers and unions have reached end-game; it is time to either fight for more or accept what is on offer.
RMT has reached agreement with several companies, which will see members receive bonuses of several hundreds of pounds or more.
Some include agreed changes to working arrangements, others (such as London Underground) preserve agreements).
But London Underground could still face industrial action during the Games, as RMT ballots members to refuse to co-operate with the company’s disastrous policy of counting “ICSAs” (admin staff in high-visibility vests) towards the minimum number of staff required to be on duty on a station for it to stay open safely. And RMT members on Transport for London will strike for one day starting with the night shifts on Sunday 1 July, as TfL refuses to pay an Olympic bonus to many staff and is restricting annual leave.
The union is also balloting members on First Great Western, Greater Anglia, South West Trains, the London Cycle Hire Scheme, three cleaning companies (ISS, Initial and Carlisle) and two engineering contractors for strike action to demand a decent offer for working arrangements and financial reward during the Olympics.
Janine Booth, London Transport region representative on RMT’s National Executive, said, “After years of privatisation, the transport industry and its workforce are fragmented.
“But RMT is looking at co-ordinating these disputes, which will give us unity and power, and we support and feel boosted by Unite’s action on London buses too.
“With the revolting spectacle of corporate snouts in the Olympic trough, transport workers deserve decent compensation for the hard work and demands of Games, without having to sacrifice hard-won working conditions.”