All Grades to Defeat Stations Job Cuts
Will all grades come together to fight job cuts on stations? It should not be seen as ‘will drivers support the station staff?’ but ‘will we support each other’? That’s the true meaning of solidarity: our own interests are best protected when we stand together. In order to achieve this a 'General Strike' of all grades should be put to the membership across the combine under a single heading of ‘job losses (particularly in operational grades) equals an unsafe tube’.
In the last month, two drivers on the Victoria Line have been sacked. One for wrong-side door opening after the company’s own duty of care was removed, and last week a driver was medically terminated even though she was back at work! Reps protested at this perverse decision and were callously told, ‘save it for the appeal’.
Whether you’re a driver, service controller or station staff, your jobs are not safe. It is now widely known that General Managers have been instructed to look for spurious reasons to take staff to a Company Disciplinary Interview with a view to sacking them.
We will need an all-grades fight to defeat these job cuts. However, we do not want to repeat the last dispute’s mistake of adding extra demands to appeal to specific grades, as ‘attendance and discipline’ was added to appeal to drivers. The concoction of demands confused people about what we were fighting for; management fed the confusion and played issues off against each other. We need a strong, unifying demand. The main demand will be safety.
But all these attacks amount to an attack on working people by the Mayor, Government and regime now in charge of LU. They have a vision of de-staffed stations and automated trains, a ‘world class’ railway without the workers. They are making us pay for the debt that private contractors have plundered from our public railway. We need to drive home the point that PPP has come full-circle, but ultimately has made the workers and public pick up the cost. With this issue, we will get a lot of popular support. RMT Head Office needs to be pro-active with the media by pointing out the growing problems of job insecurity that we all face long before ''operational restructuring'' bulletins are released by LUL and our response is portrayed as over reactive fear-mongering by the press and media. We need more than one-off sound bites and Bob Crow on TV - we need a sustained public campaign which clearly points out where we are now and, more importantly, where public transport is heading whilst in the hands of profit making business people. And because we can’t rely on the media to be our friends, we need to go directly to the public with our message through leafletting and demonstrations.
As we go into this fight, the RMT needs to discuss honestly what demands all grades are prepared to fight over. We need to demand something specific and winnable that will stop the jobs massacre, but it needs to genuinely motivate all grades and bring us together. We don’t have long but we should use a little time to prepare the ground for a strong fight. Ultimately, as we saw with the last dispute, you can’t fight effectively, let alone win, if you are dragging workers in on a pretext instead of on the issue at stake. You end up fighting on different fronts and winning nowhere. And this time, we can’t afford to lose.
Article from March 2010 edition of Finsbury Park Monthly News