London Underground workers in the RMT union plan five days of strikes to stop the company slashing frontline jobs and closing ticket offices.
Strikes are due to begin at 9pm on Monday 28 April, and conclude on the evening of Wednesday 30 April, with a second strike commencing at 9pm on Monday 5 May and running until Thursday 8 May. Tube workers struck against management’s cuts plan in February, forcing a pause in the implementation of the scheme, but extended negotiations have seen management intransigent and revealed the full extent of the cuts.
LU’s “Fit for the Future — Stations” scheme proposes to “modernise” the running of London’s 270 tube station by reducing frontline staffing levels by nearly 2,000 posts, while increasing the number of managerial roles by nearly 400%. The plan would also see the closure of every single ticket office on the entire network, and its proposals for restructuring the staffing and grading model for station staff could see some workers facing a £12,000 pay cut. Management have also asserted in talks that, while pay cuts for frontline staff are absolutely necessary and inevitable, current senior management salaries, already as high as £670,000 in one instance, are too low!
This first wave of cuts presages longer-term cuts plans, as LU bosses attempt to make frontline staff pay for the effects of a 12.5% cut to Transport for London’s funding from central government. LU has already announced plans to commission driverless trains, suggesting that more job cuts are yet to come. The creation of a new grade of frontline station staff, on less money than the existing “Customer Service Assistant” grade, also creates a two-tier workforce on stations and opens the door to more pay cuts and downgrading in the future.
The TSSA, another rail union with a smaller membership on the Tube than RMT, also participated in the February strike. It has so far not committed to the next strikes, with its officials focusing on protecting the terms and conditions of remaining staff rather than resisting the job cuts.
The rank-and-file bulletin Tubeworker, published by Workers’ Liberty, will argue for the RMT to announce an escalating programme of strikes and other industrial action, supporting the hardest-hit members through the use of hardship funds and strike pay, and developing a public, political campaign of direct action to highlight the impact of LU’s cuts on London’s working-class communities. The Hands off London Transport campaign has already brought together unions, disability rights campaigners, pensioners’ groups, student unions, and others to plan protests, meetings, and other actions.
This campaign has a vital role to play in raising public awareness of the dispute and the issues behind it, and building solidarity.