Tube union RMT is preparing to ballot its members across London Underground for industrial action, after talks with LU bosses over pay and conditions reached a dead end. Directly-employed Tube workers’ pay deal expired in April, with all four unions which organised on LU submitting claims which included the demand for a 32-hour week (most Tube workers currently work 35 or 36-hour contractual weeks). LU has refused to engage with these demands, offering first a 2.5% pay increase, then a two-year deal with RPI+0.1% and RPI+0.2% pay increases.
RMT is the majority union by a considerable margin, and will ballot close to 10,000 workers. Drivers’ union Aslef; TSSA, which organises mainly supervisory and clerical grades amongst station and office staff; and Unite, which has a small membership in some engineering workplaces, have all also rejected LU’s offers and are likely to follow RMT into dispute. This will be the first network-wide ballot of Tube workers since the imposition of new laws requiring turnout thresholds, and a double threshold for workers in “essential services”, including transport.
An RMT rep told Solidarity: “We’ve got an opportunity to run an enthusiastic, assertive campaign that gets the union on the front foot. It’s unfortunate we’ve taken as long as we have to get to the point of going into dispute and preparing to ballot; many of us were calling for our pay claim to be submitted much further in advance of the expiry of the last deal than it was.
“But now we’re here, we need to run a campaign that members feel ownership over and which is a positive fight for our demands, rather than a haggle over the company’s derisory offer. Work/life balance and fatigue is a major issue across the job, especially for station staff, so we should approach this is an offensive campaign for a reduced working week.
“We can’t just go through the motions of a routine pay round and end up with a deal a few fractions of a percentage point higher than the one management offered.”