London Underground Ltd will announce its new plan for station cuts on Thursday 21 November. Workers expect huge job losses, ticket office closures, and some kind of reorganisation and restructuring. The background to the cuts is a 12.5% cut to Transport for London’s funding from central government. The RMT plans a rally on Tuesday 26 November to prepare for a dispute.
We reprint this article from the blog of rank-and-file bulletin Tubeworker.
We have all known this is coming for ages. We have had all the preparation time we need. As soon as this is announced, the unions should ballot for industrial action. From the [2010 job cuts] to pay claims, we have lost too many fights in the past because we were slow off the starting blocks and management raced ahead of us. That must not happen this time.
All grades together
No-one can feel secure in their job. Even if stations jobs are the trigger, our fight must be to defend jobs in all grades. We know that management are preparing for driverless trains, plan to cut service control jobs when the Hammersmith service control centre opens, want to do away with train maintainers under the guise of ‘auto-preparation’ and think that engineers can also be replaced by automated processes. We know that they are keeping vacancies unfilled or plugging the gaps with agencies.
The company won’t be so stupid as to announce job cuts in all grades on the same day; it will try to pick us off one function at a time. Management hope that this will prevent us uniting against their attacks. We must not fall for this; we must act together.
This also means that all unions should take industrial action. This is not a fight for some other grade or some other union. It is a fight for all of us. Management will exploit any division if we let them.
Winning the propaganda war
When management put out their propaganda, we do not want to wait days or even weeks for a response from our unions. We need quick responses that take apart the company’s spin.
We also need proactive materials that tell us the facts and the arguments, and explain how the unions can win and what role we can play.
Publicity should address all workers, but should also address each grade, so that everyone knows how the issues affect us. And it should tackle the doubts and questions that people are raising at work, and the mischievous rumours that management put about.
Londoners to not want their ticket offices closed, their stations unstaffed, their Tube not maintained properly or their trains driven by robots. They can be our allies in this fight - as long as we mobilise their support.
We can be sure that management, the Mayor, and their lackeys at the Evening Standard will be telling them that the unions are kicking off about nothing, that automation rather than staff is the way forward, etc etc etc. We need to work to win public support - by going to other trade unions outside our industry, by leafleting outside stations, by headline-grabbing protest actions.
Effective, creative, sustained industrial action
Learn the lessons from past defeats: for a dispute on this scale, 24-hour strikes are a waste of time. Management just staff up the service with scabs. We need to be ready to take sustained action. If we are creative about when and how we take action, we can cause a serious impact for a week or more. Only this can force a rethink from the company’s top bosses and the politicians who pull their strings.
Rank and file in the driving seat
The most effective dispute is one in which rank and file workers set the agenda and decide the strategy.
We need to form a strike committee to discuss tactics and pressure our union leaders to adopt them, and to organise the practical work of visiting depots, stations, control rooms, offices etc, going out to other unions and community groups, strike organisation, picketing etc.
Such a committee may be open to everyone to attend, but must make its decisions on the basis of balanced representation of all grades and areas.