Stations dispute wins concessions: celebrate the wins, organise to push for more!

Submitted by Tubeworker on Mon, 02/06/2017 - 12:17

RMT suspended strikes planned for 5-8 February, and called off its overtime ban. The suspension of action was a response to a new proposal from LU, made in Acas negotiations on Thursday 2 February, which involves some significant concessions. These include 325 additional jobs, and guaranteed promotion for all existing CSA2s to CSA1.

There's no doubt that these concessions are big wins for us. When we began this dispute, the company was intransigent, insisting that not a single penny was available for a single additional job, and that the CSA2 issue was non-negotiable. After three months of a highly effective overtime ban, which led to over 100 station closures, and unprecedented strike action which shut down London on 8-9 January, we've forced the company to change its position.

Tubeworker feels we could've pushed for more, and we agree with those who argued in the RMT reps' meeting on Friday 3 February for keeping the strikes and OT ban on. We had the momentum, and were piling the pressure on the company. We believe further strikes over 5-8 February could've won more concessions.

There are questions to be asked of the new proposal: is 325 jobs enough? And, although existing CSA2s now have guaranteed promotion, future CSA2s' right to promotion is contingent on a whole number of variables, including being prepared to work anywhere in London. Our unions will need to keep the pressure on the company to make sure they don't try to pull a fast one to avoid promoting any future CSA2s.

Both RMT and TSSA remain in dispute with the company. That means industrial action could be reinstated at any time (with seven days' notice). That's preferable to the situation we had in February 2016, when RMT not only suspended planned strikes against the launch of "Fit for the Future", but settled the entire dispute. Keeping the dispute on means we can name more action if we feel we need to. (Although, to employ a military metaphor, keeping one's powder dry by calling off strikes on the proviso that more strikes might be called later invariably diminishes the supply of powder: we might find it hard to mobilise members to strike, in a few weeks or months time, to improve a proposal that we were all told on 3 February was enough to suspend our strikes for.)

We have a lot to be proud of in this dispute. The concessions we've won are significant and certainly worth celebrating. To claw back around 40% of the 853 jobs LU cut under "Fit for the Future" is no mean feat. On top of this, LU was administratively unable to carry through another 100-odd of the planned cuts, meaning they've only managed to cut around 40% of the jobs they intended to. Although losing a single job is a defeat, we should be proud of how far we have pushed the company back.

The guarantee of automatic promotion for existing CSA2s is a huge win too, meaning a significant bump in pay, terms, and conditions for many workers and guaranteeing dozens more safety-critical staff on stations.

And our 8-9 January strike destroyed the common sense that had developed, on the job and within RMT, that station grades couldn't take effective industrial action on our own. That experience should impact on our consciousness and confidence going forward.

Could we have come away from this dispute with more? Tubeworker believes so. When the dispute was launched, members were told to prepare for a protracted battle, and the 8-9 January strike (which many reps and activists felt should have been longer) was presented as the opening salvo in an ongoing campaign of strikes. Station staff may, therefore, be bemused at being congratulated for a magnificent, solid action in one breath, but being told we're settling for something that falls short of our demands in the next. The strike was indeed solid and magnificent: why, therefore, not maintain that pressure and momentum to push for more concessions?

In terms of the overall situation, we are still in a largely unfavourable position, with ticket offices having been closed, many jobs cut, and new grading system imposed, and many workers displaced.

But all of that would have been much, much worse had we not mounted the fight we have. If we had rolled over and given up, we wouldn't have won a single job back and management would be looking to consolidate the CSA grade downwards, not upwards.

Tubeworker will continue to argue for renewed fights to win better staffing levels; improved working conditions; and more rights and power for us in the workplace, and use our blog and bulletin to discuss the best strategies for doing this. We invite all station staff, and all LU workers, to join us in doing that!

In the meantime, the action we took in this dispute and the concessions we won can make us confident and bold in the fights to come.