London Underground signal maintenance staff have forced their employer — the former Metronet — to withdraw the threat of imposed weekend working.
They achieved this through solid industrial action. Rather than accept the imposition of new rosters that would mess up their lives, signals workers demanded that RMT ballot them, then called not just a token one- or two-day strike, but more than a dozen days of action, and “action short of strikes” too.
On the first strike day, Friday 5 February, there was 100% support — no scabbing — and workers from other grades refused to cross the well-organised and lively picket lines. This cost the company dear as it had to cancel weekend engineering work and could not restore the services on several lines when signal failures went unrepaired.
Management have now withdrawn their threat to immediately impose the rosters, and will enter talks with the union to agree a process by which roster changes must be negotiated in future. The company has also explicitly recognised that many staff currently work Monday-to-Friday.
However, management may come back with new attempts to bring in anti-social rosters in a few months' time. While celebrating our victory, we must not rest on our laurels; instead, we need to use this breathing space to build union strength and prepare for future attacks. In particular, we need more London Underground operational staff refusing to work in unsafe conditions during strikes by engineering workers.