THE BLOG

Why Tube Workers Are Striking

08/07/2015 14:56 BST | Updated 08/07/2016 10:59 BST

All four unions representing workers on London Underground have overwhelmingly voted for strike action with RMT, the largest union, delivering a mandate of over 91%.

Tube workers are clearly angry over the linked issues of pay and night running, casualisation and the long running dispute over station staffing, mass job cuts and ticket office closures.

Despite strenuous efforts by union negotiators to press London Underground to address the issues of fairness, safety, work/life balance and equality at the heart of this dispute they have come up with nothing in talks.

It is simply outrageous that management, in a mad dash to bulldoze through the night running stunt, has seen fit to smash apart long-term agreements and resorted to bullying staff into accepting roster changes at a local level and the message from RMT and our sister unions is clear - we are not having it.

These changes would also lock our members into a culture of anti-social hours and appalling working conditions while being hit with pay proposals that would undermine their standard of living.

Moreover ten years after the terrible 7/7 terror attacks London mayor Boris Johnson appears to make no connection at all between incident response times and staffing numbers on stations and platforms.

Those hailed as heroes, as they risked their own lives to evacuate stations and get help to the wounded, are the very same staff who now see their futures and livelihoods on the line and who are being forced to reapply for their own jobs as nearly 900 station staff posts face the axe through cash-led cuts.

Yet in the last ten years tube passenger numbers have soared and overcrowding is rife across the network, compromising rapid response times and making a nonsense of the on-going cuts to station and platform staffing.

London MPs have also condemned the "disgraceful" treatment of tube workers and called the London Mayor to withdraw the arbitrary imposition of night working.

Jeremy Corbyn MP and others have tabled a motion pointing out that uncontrolled and unmanaged night work can have a serious impact on the physical and mental health and well-being of employees as well as a detrimental impact on family and social life.

The motion expresses concern that night running was being rushed in on the back of massive cuts to staffing and strains on the existing infrastructure, raising genuine concerns amongst the workforce that the safety and service to passengers and workers will be jeopardised.

The problem at the heart of this dispute is the current pay offer of 0.75% is effectively a pay cut at a time when living costs in London have continued to rise dramatically.

This is at a time when the Mayor wants to ram through night running without any consultation whatsoever.

Let me be clear, RMT is not opposed to night running but we will not agree to more night working for staff with no compensatory time off or improvements in pay, not just a one off payment of just £750. Our members want a decent consolidated, ie pensionable, pay rise.

The slash and burn antics of the Mayor and his cuts-led agenda will be met with resistance by staff that want to deliver a decent public service in return for dignity and respect at work, is that really too much to ask?

Mick Cash is the general secretary of the RMT