In late August two drivers on the Tube’s Jubilee line, Raj Nathvani and Les Bruty, faced the sack over small performance errors which would normally result at most in a slap on the wrist and extra training.
Les, an RMT drivers’ rep, was charged with gross misconduct for a minor breach of procedure even though there was no-one on the platform, or in the train, to be put at risk! Management refused Raj a rep until his actual disciplinary hearing, collated evidence against him in the form of casual emails from other staff members, then sacked him.
They were trying to bring in a regime of fear among workers in an effort to attack the unions, particularly RMT. The rationale: if we are afraid for our jobs, we will not stand up for ourselves. This is particularly important in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics, which is why LUL targeted the Jubilee line.
But Tube workers did not just lie down and let this happen, and set about organising a campaign to defend Raj and Les.
RMT arranged representation for the disciplinary hearings, but we did not rely on this alone. Activists talked to workmates and made sure everyone understood that if the company got away with this, no driver's job was. We put out information all over the line, giving facts and answering management's accusations. LUL left itself open by claiming that performance issues were "misconduct" - we exploited the cracks in their attack.
As well as official RMT leaflets, rank-and-file drivers produced unofficial flyers, some of which upset management! Tubeworker bulletin also gave the issue a high profile.
Neasden RMT (of which Les is Secretary) called a special branch meeting, and as well as Raj and Les, we got General Secretary Bob Crow and National Executive rep John Leach to attend. Knowing that cross-union unity was vital, we invited members of other unions too. About 100 people attended, and the mood was militant. Workers from all grades and unions came to express their solidarity and readiness to fight.
A strike ballot was on the cards, it would have given a massive Yes vote, and we had a promise from the 'top table' that if a one-day strike on the Jubilee did not win, action would spread across the whole Tube. RMT’s Regional Council gave its full support.
Management backed down soon enough. They "found out" what happened at the meeting in Neasden and didn't want a strike. Raj was reinstated, Les was not sacked.
It is 'not protocol' for RMT to officially boast about this fantastic victory, but here at Off The Rails, we can say what we like. Les and Raj's victory shows that standing up with a united voice, rail and Tube workers can take on the bosses' attacks - and win.