London tube strike wins £30 million

Trade unions can build on this to beat back all attacks

by Gary Harbord, RMT LU train grades secretary, personal capacity

In an unprecedented move, London Underground bosses and the mayor’s office came up with an extra £30 million to try and settle transport union RMT’s dispute over pay.

The week’s worth of strike action had already begun, with Transplant drivers taking action from 6pm on Friday 5 January. This seriously disrupted planned engineering work on the District line.

Power control workers were preparing to take action on the Sunday when a phone call came through to our head office saying that Transport for London (TfL) had found another £30 million.

Acton Works, London. RMT strike 21.6.22

Just two days earlier, a senior director had sent a letter to the RMT saying that 5% was a “full and final offer” and no more money was available!

This astonishing climbdown was a result of RMT’s reps and wider membership refusing to accept the company’s narrative of “financial restraint”, culminating in a mass meeting of 150 reps voting to continue action.

It was clear that, with a London mayoral election weeks away, Labour mayor Sadiq Khan was desperate to find a way out of the dispute in order to preserve his reputation. A reputation that has been severely damaged among many RMT members for refusing to back our campaigns against ongoing attacks on pay and terms and conditions.

Unfortunately the regional leadership of train drivers’ union Aslef had recommended acceptance of the 5%, but even so, London would have been shut for a whole week, resulting in a serious impact on the London and national economy.

RMT’s membership on London Underground can rightly feel proud of its unbending resolve in forcing this climbdown. This action shows what is achievable when all grades stick together and a combative leadership is shown in the face of management intransigence.

A period of negotiations is under way that must ensure all grades are rewarded, particularly those on the lower pay bands. Underground workers are also demanding concessionary travel on national rail, the same as other TfL employees on the Elizabeth line and London Overground. We will not hesitate in putting strike action back on if the company reneges on any of the commitments that it has given.

In the words of the late Bob Crow: “If you fight you won’t always win, but if you don’t fight you will always lose” – on this occasion we fought and won!

The success of RMT members’ action in forcing a U-turn on Sadiq Khan has pushed the Aslef leadership to now return to the fray, and the TSSA transport union to demand talks and remind bosses they are “ballot-ready”.

The confidence of tube workers is up and the battle over pay and for the future of London Underground is not over. A united campaign of London Underground workers could fight to resist all cuts and demand full funding from Labour’s mayor and an incoming Labour government.

London RMT strike most concerted on the tube in decades

by Gary Harbord, RMT LU train grades secretary, personal capacity

RMT members on London Underground (LU) are taking strike action from 5 January in an ongoing dispute over pay, after 95% voted to take action.

The week’s rolling action is likely to have a significant impact as engineers, fleet, power control, signallers, stations and trains go out on different days. This is the most concerted strike action on the tube that the union has called in decades.

Victoria picket line
Picket line at Victoria, central London.
Photo: London SP

The company’s offer of 5% was roundly rejected by a mass meeting of reps back in December, and by over 90% in a ballot, showing the resolve of the members for a better pay increase. Unfortunately, Aslef, the train drivers’ union, recommended acceptance of the offer and this was agreed in a referendum.

The RMT has consistently rejected the narrative that the money isn’t there. Senior managers paid themselves £12 million in bonuses over the last 12 months. Andy Lord, the Transport for London (TfL) commissioner, received a £40,000 pay increase in 2023. Levels of footfall are back to pre-Covid levels creating a surplus across LU.

As part of our claim we are demanding parity with Elizabeth Line and London Overground staff, who get concessionary travel on national rail. Both the Elizabeth Line and Overground come under the umbrella of TfL and LU staff should not be treated any differently.

The Labour London mayor Sadiq Khan needs to recognise the crucial role that LU workers play in the London economy. He needs to stand with the unions and demand that central government provides the funding necessary for a transport system that is cheap, safe, and that treats its workforce with dignity.