Historic RMT strikes show the way

Unity is strength

by London Underground tube driver

In March 2020, the UK went into a Covid lockdown. London Underground has a ‘self-financing’ model, the only major metro system not to be subsidised by government. But under the Covid crisis, the Tories had to step in to help support the system.

Fully aided by the London Labour mayor, the Tory government drip fed Transport for London with money, under the condition that TfL tear up our terms and conditions, reduce our workforce, and review our pension scheme with the intention of increasing contribution rates, decreasing benefits or both.

The government spending review laid this out in stark terms:

  • a reduction of 600 station jobs
  • more flexibility and more unsociable hours
  • £730 million of savings year on year
  • a review of service levels, likely to lead to a reduction of drivers and services on trains
  • a review of the pension scheme, which London Underground hope will save them around a £100 million a year

RMT members have said enough is enough. We have kept the transport system running during the pandemic, with the sad loss of many of our members in doing this.

RMT Protest 2012
RMT protest 2012

In March we took action altogether on the tube, which showed our collective power in shutting London down. This was followed by our station members taking action on 6 June, which was a huge success.

We fundamentally believe that the Underground system is a service and should be publicly owned and funded, and not used as a profit-making tool for the capitalist system. It should be a cheap and fully integrated transport system, democratically run, for the benefit of Londoners and visitors to London, whether for work, leisure or tourism.

We also recognise that this could be a long battle. On 21 June we will take action again, and will be proud to stand with our national rail colleagues.

We need to stand together in unity to maximise pressure on the Tory government and its austerity ideology, because unity is indeed strength.

Long strike on the underground continues

For a decent work-life balance

by a RMT night tube worker

For the last six months, the RMT transport union has carried out the longest period of industrial action on London Underground. That action is because of the imposition of night tube duties on the full-time driver roster.

The employer has cut 300 night tube part-time jobs, which is the equivalent of 180 full-time positions. There is a previous agreement which meant that full-time drivers were not required to work night tube shifts. However, during negotiations arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, part-time night tube positions have been abolished and the workload has been absorbed by the full-time roster.

RMT Tube Workers Strike
RMT Tube Workers Strike
Photo: Paul Mattsson

The RMT attempted to negotiate a fair deal for drivers, however the night tube leaders of the Aslef union agreed to force compulsory nights on the drivers’ grade. They did not consult their members as they knew this would be unpopular. These officials will most likely never have to work these shifts, because of the association’s structure.

These shift patterns are anti-social and are a degradation of drivers’ work-life balance. They are unpopular with the Aslef drivers; however, they have not had a say. The RMT drivers have had a say and have consistently voted for strike action!

Aslef’s hierarchy have narrated this dispute as them against the RMT. However the real narrative is not what union you’re in but what side you’re on: the side of the worker or the side of the employer, who is enforcing inferior working practices on the cheap.

The RMT position is simple insofar that we simply want the night tube shifts to be voluntary. In some cases, representatives of Aslef have volunteered to cross picket lines and have actively sought to cover shifts. The workload at the moment for the night tube is negligible as the successful RMT dispute has meant that no driver need work a night tube shift.

The choice is clear for any driver: stand with your class, your own long-term interest and the next generation of employees so that we do not hand them inferior working conditions. Aslef members have not had a say but benefit from the duties being voluntary. In fact, most of them observe the picket lines.

On the 7 June the RMT received ballot results for the night tube reballot. The result was 86% ‘yes’ vote to continue the strikes.

In solidarity with the continuing working-class struggle!