What Does Another Five Years Of The Tories Mean For Us?

Submitted by Tubeworker on Mon, 05/11/2015 - 19:12

Five years more of Tory rule, coupled with at least one more year of a Tory mayor, will have big consequences for everyone who works for London Underground directly or as a sub-contractor.

Here are some of the major challenges that lie ahead. And a few ideas to challenge them.

1. Defend the right to strike!
The Tories were just elected into government by just 24% of the electorate (36% of those who voted), yet they want to change the law so over 50% of us have to vote 'yes' before a strike can be considered 'legal'. This could seriously limit when and whether we can strike in future. The employers' fear of strikes is the main reason we have the pay, holidays, pension and other benefits that have made LU jobs into 'decent' working-class jobs.
This is a serious threat: it is important that we defend ourselves against it and refuse to be cowed by it. A good start in defeating such laws would be for all the Tube unions to engage us in preparing a strategy - one that does *not* include shying away from strikes for fear of provoking the Tories.

2. Fight low pay!
Cameron kept boasting that 2 million jobs had been created under the last government. But most of these were bogus self-employed, zero-hours or minimum-waged jobs.
The Tories have used the economic crisis to engineer a low-waged economy to maximise companies' profits. That's one of the ways they have created an economic 'recovery for the rich'.

Five more years of low pay as the norm will mean lower wages for LU workers. LU already plans a lower stations starting salary. It is already increasing our workloads and responsibilities for no extra pay (cutting the 'rate for the job' for all grades on stations). LU will feel justified in pumping more out of us because so many other workers are doing so much for such low wages. This will make it harder to win a pay rise.

If you work for Cleshar, Interserve, Sodexo or one of the many other companies doing track work, cleaning, catering or delivering contracts on LU, it will be hard to break through the low paying, casualised conditions you already face. The small reprieve Labour offered - to ban zero-hours contracts and raise the minimum wage - has been snatched away.
To tackle the attack on wages, especially for already low-paid and casualised groups of workers, will require our unions to turn outwards and organise the unorganised with more determination and resources. Success will require belligerent struggle, backed by all grades on LU.

3. Restore funding to LU!
The current stations reorganisation is LU's first step in implementing government cuts of £4.2 billion to TfL/LU. Every LU grade will feel these - maybe worse - cuts in coming years. It means fewer jobs, worse conditions, attacks on pension rights, less work-life balance.
The consequences if you work for a company contracted by LU could be truly damaging. LU will award contracts to the lowest bidder to save money. This will mean staff cuts. Your employer will squeeze more work out of you in an attempt to make profit out of a less generous contract. The employers will propose staff cuts and an intensification of work; we can only resist them if we fight back.

The only way to stop TfL's funding being slashed will be to fight with renewed vigour for well funded publicly-owned transport in London. That fight will be most effective if we battle both industrially and politically.

4. Fight divide-and-rule and racism with solidarity!
With UKIP gaining over 12% of of the vote, and the Tories promising a referendum on EU membership, we can expect months of racism in the press, directing anger at migrants rather those responsible for social problems. Instead of answering why wealth in society is more unequal than in any previous period in history, or addressing poverty, or housing costs, the Tories will use the referendum to distract attention away from themselves towards Europe as the source of our problems.

This climate will intensify the racism that our workmates from Bulgaria, Romania and other 'foreign 'countries are already facing.

As well as migrants, we can expect tirades against benefit claimants, disabled people, young people and other groups - all in an attempt to get working-class people to direct our anger against other working-class people. Don't fall for it!

We may well find ourselves the target of this too - when we have to defend our final-salary pension, we will be told that that we are greedy, that this is a privilege that we should be stripped of because others are even worse off.

We need to use every opportunity to explain the cause of social ills: a capitalist system, backed by a government that serves to benefit the rich. We need to challenge racism and other prejudices with solidarity.

5. Make our unions fit to fight
In the face of all this, how can our unions become more effective?
First off, it would be better if we were all in one union - and while we remain in different ones, that they work together to organise action.
Beyond this, unions will be more successful in defending us if they are outgoing and imaginative, and welcome new members and encourage them to get involved - and most importantly, if they refused to be overwhelmed by the threat from the Tories and lead a determined, well-thought-through, rank-and-file-led resistance.