Link to this page: https://archive.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/21183
Tube strike latest: pickets and public determined to beat bosses
On 5th and 6th August, all four unions on the London Underground again unified in taking strike action, bringing London to a standstill. The strike was due to London Underground management's intransigence over jobs, work-life balance, forced unsocial hours and the ripping up of agreements.
From Edgware Road to Acton, the strike action by London underground workers in transport unions RMT, Aslef, TSSA and Unite is solid. Not a train is moving.
The mood on the picket line is very determined. We visited picket lines at Edgware Road, Queens Park, Neasden and Acton (Bollo Lane).
Pickets at Edgware Road reported how one passer-by returned to the line to explain he works as a professional musician in an orchestra. Their numbers have been dramatically cut. He was pleased to see tube workers taking a stand against the bosses' attacks.
At the Neasden picket line, our discussion with strikers was regularly interrupted by toots of support from passing motorists.
Both of these examples underline the opinion poll on LBC radio, showing up to 70% of the public supports the tube workers. At the Acton picket line, RMT members crowded round the radio to hear at least one LBC radio presenter voice his support.
The 'Red Line' leaflet produced by Socialist Party members working on London Underground went down very well. So did the Socialist newspaper, with one picket at Acton paying a fiver for their copy. There was also interest in developments in the Labour leadership contest, and the mass rallies in support of Jeremy Corbyn
About 15 were on the London Bridge picket at its height, getting lots of toots of support from drivers and passers-by stopping to say they supported the strike. One stopped to ask the pickets to bring a petition next time so he and others could sign it.
The number of people taking the 'why we are striking' flyers was considerably up on last month's strike.
There was still the runner shouting about driverless trains - which still need workers to run them, of course - and the cyclist with a megaphone. But none of the criticism from the minority who opposed the strike could dent the optimism of the pickets.
"It'll be a long, hard dispute, but we're prepared" met general agreement. All the pickets were buoyed up by the surge of support for Jeremy Corbyn and how it's shown that anti-austerity ideas are popular. The photo in the centre pages of the Socialist, of several people climbing up to a window to catch the packed Jeremy Corbyn rally in central London, went down really well.
Pickets were happy to get support from the Socialist Party and from the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. Four bought copies of the Socialist.
As the strike was so solid, management hadn't even tried to open the station. Only pickets were there to see someone who had slipped into the station through an unlocked gate at the back. Concerned, they contacted managers who got police to check it out and lock the gates.
As one of the pickets said, "It's our members who will be going into the station tonight when the strike finishes and an intruder could have been doing anything inside there." Yet again, it's union members looking after the tube.
Brilliant picket line at Victoria. A Greek tourist walking past asked for a photo and stood with us waving a TSSA flag. The ticket office closures were also discussed. The practice run of no ticket offices at Victoria, which is still management's plan, ended in chaos.
A dozen pickets were in fighting spirit this morning. The Aslef and RMT members turned away a few putative passengers who somehow had missed the news the strike was on. They cheerfully supported it anyway, as did many passers-by.
Strikers were confident in the midst of a total network shutdown. They were up for escalating the dispute, and coordinating action with other workforces. The idea of a national, all-union midweek demonstration against new anti-union laws was popular too.
Conversation among RMT and Aslef pickets at Barking station turned to the rising violence on the underground.
This was after some friendly banter with police, who called by to ask if pickets had faced any trouble.
The police were supportive. Pickets pointed out that when the night tube goes ahead, police will be called to more violent incidents at tube stations in the early hours. They will undoubtedly end up involuntarily working longer shifts.
Pickets showed how the attack on their conditions would start to affect other workers in the area as well.
London Underground is cutting 850 station staff jobs, leaving many stations dangerously under-staffed, while planning to extend the tube to run all night.
Pickets told the Socialist that in the last quarter, management's figures show violent assaults have increased.
More incidents are taking place in areas which have lost staff. The pickets derided management's "Fit for the Future" plans - "Fit for nothing," said one. With increased traffic, pubs and clubs will stay open and trouble will increase.
Pickets readily agreed to the proposal in our Red Line leaflet, produced by Socialist Party RMT members, that the next strike should be 48 hours. "If not longer" was the response.