London RMT strike: “We cannot allow these attacks to be imposed. We must fight back!”

by Helen Pattison, London Socialist Party secretary

London Underground and Overground workers have been on strike again in a 24-hour walk-out by RMT members on 10 November.

From Hainault in East London, Acton in the west, Morden in the south and Cockfosters in the north, across the capital there were strong picket lines and closed stations. Socialist Party members went down to support as many pickets as possible.

Hackney Downs Overground
Hackney Downs overground

There was determination from many of the pickets we spoke to, to fight to defend pensions and jobs. This has already been a long dispute, but RMT members’ anger at both London Labour mayor Sadiq Khan and the Tory government for their dodgy deal has not gone away.

Staff and transport users cannot be expected to pay for the crisis in Transport for London (TfL) funding with job losses, pension losses, and risks to safety and rising transport costs.

There is an alternative to the current transport chaos. We want to see a publicly owned, fully funded and democratically run transport network in the capital.

Jared Wood, RMT London Transport Regional Organiser, reported on his blog that RMT negotiators and reps met London Underground bosses, and offered to suspend the strike action if management agreed to suspend the implementation of 600 station job cuts until the end of this year; make a clear statement that they would not agree to detrimental attacks on pensions arising out the current pension review; and suspend consultation on organisational changes with a view to seeking a negotiated outcome. Management refused to accept all three of these proposals to allow meaningful negotiation to take place.

Sadiq Khan, Labour’s London Mayor, subsequently told the press that as a result of the ‘deal’ he made with the Tory government, pension attacks will follow. Management are proceeding with 600 job cuts at stations, refusing to go through normal safety consultations and negotiations.

Jared concluded: “We cannot allow these attacks on our members to be imposed. We must fight back.”

From the picket lines

Paul Kershaw reported a very good mood at Cockfosters, Oakwood and Arnos Grove tube pickets. In discussion, pickets were thinking about a general election: concerned to get rid of the Tories but thoughtful about how to get political representation for their struggles.

Ellen Kenyon Peers reported that strikers were in good spirits at Walthamstow Central Overground picket line, and getting a good public reaction, with people stopping to show solidarity.

Strikers felt that there was a deliberate move by the bosses to confuse the public. TfL were informed of the strike two weeks previously and yet the website showed all strike dates cancelled up until the day before. In addition, TfL were slow to put physical signage out to warn people.

This meant a lot of frustrated commuters and huge queues for buses. However angry people were, most directed it at the government and company rather than the pickets.

At Edmonton Green Overground, Sarah Sachs-Eldridge found discussion on the picket line ranged from the case for rail nationalisation, the problem with managers, to the need for a workers’ alternative to ‘New Labour’, and how the union defends its militant traditions, as well as how the strike wave can be built. Sarah says: “We are very much looking forward to continuing those discussions — on future picket lines definitely, but we also talked about how local discussion could be extended via the trades council, and in Socialist Party and RMT meetings”.