A message to drivers: Prepare for pay fight!

by Vaughan Thomas, RMT Trains Council

National and local media often accuse Tube drivers of being overpaid and under worked. Whenever we have a dispute they trot out the old refrain that a trained monkey could do our job, and it’s about time that the Mayor took on the unions! Flogging’s too good for the likes of us!

They compare us to underpaid workers in the emergency services: the nurses, paramedics and firefighters and say we should be grateful for what we’ve got. How dare we ask for more!

But they fail to consider the unsocial hours: getting up at 3am for a 4.45 start; or finishing at 01.30 and going to bed at the same time we were getting up last week! Working 3 weekends in every 4. Being at work when our friends and family are celebrating birthdays or New Year.

They also fail to consider the level of responsibility we have at work; 1000 passengers packed into a rush hour train rely on us to transport them safely. We work in close proximity to 630 volts of electricity, hundreds of feet below ground. We can’t rely on the police or the AA; if something goes wrong, the buck stops here.

But we don’t get paid this level of wage because Tim O’Toole and Boris Johnson are nice people and believe we are worth it. The reason – the only reason – we get a half decent wage is because we have a strong union organisation in the RMT that has fought for years to improve our wages and conditions. But the fight is about to get really dirty.

Capitalism is in crisis – read all about it in any newspaper: banks collapsing, national economies in recession, rampant inflation (food 12%, gas 26%), rising unemployment. And, as always when capitalism is squeezed, it’s the workers who suffer.

As Londoners we face the highest prices of anyone in the UK. There is a mark-up on everything - accommodation, food, petrol – you name it. (In fact, for years prices in London have been so prohibitive that many of us are forced to live many miles from where we work, entailing hours of extra travelling.) Now the government is expecting many public sector workers to take a pay cut in real terms by accepting a 2% increase!

It’s absolutely crucial that, at a time like this, tube drivers stand shoulder to shoulder with our stations colleagues to get a decent wage increase. The wage anniversary isn’t until April of next year, but there’s no time to waste. We have to get the message out now to LUL that we won’t hang around for months while they consider “what they can afford.” Productivity has increased, we are carrying more passengers than ever before, so we want, we deserve, a proper wage rise. And we should have it in April.

The RMT will be organising special meetings to discuss what we want from the wage talks this year. Do we want a 4-day 32-hour week? A substantial no-strings rise for 1 year only? Another multi-year deal? It’s up to us to decide where we go with this, and it’s crucial we attend meetings to get our voices heard. So, please attend your branch meetings, look out for the special-meeting notices, let your reps know how you feel.

Whatever you do, Get Involved!