On 21 November, London Underground announced plans to close all its ticket offices and cut nearly 1,000 station staff posts.
Passengers and trade unionists responded with immediate opposition: within hours of the announcement, disabled campaigners held an impromptu protest at Westminster station, and the RMT trade union announced an industrial action ballot.
The proposed reduction in station staffing is driven by a 12.5% cut in government funding for Transport for London. London Underground’s new plan will save only a fraction of this money, so we can expect many more cuts.
Janine Booth, who represents London Transport workers on RMT’s national executive, told Solidarity, “London Underground is preparing to run a service accessible only to those with the wherewithal to travel around the system without help. People who need assistance from staff in a ticket office or on a station — because they are unfamiliar with the system, they are elderly or disabled, they have been harassed or assaulted, or many other reasons — will no longer be welcome on London’s Underground.
“LU has served a 90-day notice of redundancies and clearly intends to ignore opposition and push this through. It is fully backed by Tory Mayor Boris Johnson, despite his promise not to close ticket offices when he was chasing Londoners’ votes. This is why RMT has called immediate action, and we are confident that the other Tube unions will oppose this attack too. LU has based its plans on a fake ‘consultation’ exercise called ‘Every Journey Matters’, so we are calling our campaign ‘Every Job Matters’.”
London Underground announced on the same day that it would begin running trains all night on Friday and Saturday nights on five lines, creating 200 jobs. This is a separate issue from the station staff cuts, and LUL’s announcing the two together was a cynical act designed to see all-night running on the front pages with the huge station staffing cuts relegated to the small print.
Workers’ Liberty’s Tubeworker bulletin will be playing an active part in this fight, and putting forward ideas for winning strategies.
Its new issue welcomes RMT’s promptness in calling action, and argues for all grades and unions to unite; for regular information from the unions to members; for an alliance between workers and passengers against the cuts; and for effective, creative, sustained industrial action discussed and drawn up by rank-and-file members. Tubeworker will soon be holding a special meeting to discuss lessons from previous battles.
While Underground workers’ own action is essential to defending Tube funding, London’s whole working-class movement needs to rally to defend its public transport system.
• @LULnojobcuts on Twitter
• EVERY JOB MATTERS on Facebook