Many of us on London Underground have been inspired by the ongoing strikes on Southern, which have now spread to Northern and MerseyRail.
Workers at those companies are striking against their bosses' attempts to impose "Driver Only Operation", downgrading the safety-critical role of the guard, allowing trains to run with only one safety-trained member of staff on board.
We've had DOO on the Tube since the late 90s. However, a form of the guard's role was reintroduced by LU via the back door, with many busy stations having staffed platforms - an acknowledgement that a second safety-critical member of staff is often needed to monitor the PTI.
A recent article in the Financial Times, analysed by our friends at the Off The Rails blog here, gives some insight into the rail bosses' and Tories' wider strategy. They see the imposition of DOO as part of the process of implementing the recommendations of the McNulty Report. This report, commissioned under New Labour and delivered by the Tories, identifies cuts to staffing levels as a key way to make savings in the railway industry. LU bosses have an eye on McNulty too: if mainline train companies get away with imposing DOO, there'll undoubtedly be renewed attempts to reduce our staffing levels.
The strikes are particularly important as they buck the overall national trend of very low strike levels. Moreover, they are spreading. Workers at other train companies could also become involved. Workers on Southern, Northern, and MerseyRail will strike again on 8 April. Tubeworker encourages any readers in London and the south east to attend a Southern picket line to support our brothers and sisters.