LONDON Underground workers are set to open up a second front in defence of workers’ right to a family life, demanding guarantees against night shifts and weekend working destroying their work-life balance. Like the junior doctors, Tube drivers, maintenance and station staff fear that the introduction of a 24-hour transport service will mean increased hours, longer shifts and more dangerous conditions for passengers and workers alike. And like the doctors, they face a tubful of media smears, claiming that greedy, well-paid drivers are holding the rest of us to ransom.
That’s why socialists and trade unionists should be out there on the picket-lines, supporting the strikers and encouraging travellers to support them too. Labour should promise to take the Tube back into public ownership, and Labour Mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan should declare that he sides with Tube workers against the Mayor and Transport for London
All three will last 24 hours.
However there is still, as we go to press, the distinct possibility that union officials will call off strikes if “progress” is made in talks at conciliation service ACAS. Unite, which organises about 600 maintenance engineers, has already pulled out of the action, though drivers’ union Aslef and the all-grades RMT union remain committed to the strikes.
We have been here before though. Last September, the RMT called off strike action to allow ACAS talks to go ahead. And the only real result was that Transport for London started to recruit hundreds of part-time drivers to run the night Tube, without agreement with the unions.
This deliberately planned provocation, with London Mayor and right-wing Tory leadership hopeful Boris Johnson clearly involved, is meant to drive a wedge between transport unions and the public. But no-one should be fooled. The bosses’ aim, eventually, is to introduce driverless trains and destroy the troublesome Tube unions once and for all.
We cannot trust capitalism to put safety first. Profit is the guiding light, not jobs for the unemployed, not a 24-hour service for Londoners and certainly not a sustainable work-life balance and decent pay for the workers who ferry millions of passengers around the capital every day.
Only the Tube workers and passengers themselves can do that, through democratic control of the Tube network.
Victory to the Tube workers!