RMT STRIKE: First of Workers’ Actions against Government’s “Productivity” Offensive.

Tube strike begins across London Underground network

Tube staff have gone on strike across the entire London Underground network in a row over pay and conditions.

The strike, which officially began at 18:30 BST, affects all Tube lines and will finish at 21:30 on Thursday.

It was called after London Underground (LU) and unions failed to agree a deal over pay and new night-time services.

The rush hour started in the afternoon as commuters left work early to try to beat the strike. LU has warned there could be no services on Thursday.

Crowd control was in place at Oxford Circus The scene at Oxford Circus Tube station entrance at 18:59 Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition members stood on the picket line with Tube workers at London Bridge .

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) and Unite started their 24-hour strike at 18:30. Aslef drivers were due to start their 24-hour action from 21:30.

The typical salary for a Tube driver is £50,000 a year, the RMT said.
People had to beat the crowds by leaving work early and getting the last Tubes out of the city.

But with noses pressed against backs and bodies crushed against the walls of shops, the realisation quickly dawned on them that everyone had had the same idea.
The pressure started early. From 4pm, people were sweeping down the street, almost jogging to reach the Tube entrance.

But the crowds grew too quickly and plans had to be changed. Commuters consulted their phones, hoping to find an alternative route.

Failing that, when buses were dismissed as too full, the favourite option seemed to be a resigned shrug of the shoulders and a plan to walk – trainers or not.

Aslef organiser Finn Brennan said the responsibility of the strikes “rests squarely with London Underground management” who “squandered the window of opportunity” to resolve it.

Some 20,000 workers are expected to strike.

The TSSA union also rejected the offer and general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “This dispute is not just about pay, but about how to run a safe and secure night Tube which serves the passengers as well as rewarding the staff.”

About 20,000 Tube workers are expected to walk out during the course of the strike.
Talks are set to resume on Friday.

There are many productivity issues:

· The RMT, TSSA, Unite and Aslef unions say the dispute with London Underground (LU) is about workers’ pay and conditions associated with the new Night Tube working.

It is also politically associated with anti-austerity and the neo-liberal offensive, which includes “Productivity”.

Guards face the sack on trains as the safety of closing automatic doors and responsibility shifts to the cabs on new automatic trains.

Union members have voted 9:1 in favour of strike action. Aslef said 81% of its members responded to the ballot.

· The unions have rejected a deal including a 2% average pay rise for all Tube employees plus a £2,000 one-off bonus for drivers on the five affected lines – by way of compensating them for night working
· The RMT union says the rejected driver bonus would only have affected 1,000 Tube workers out of a work force of 20,000 and the union believed this was a divide-and-rule tactic
· The unions say they want Tube workers to be fairly compensated for night working which has been linked to poor health.
· LU says it is hiring 137 more train operators to work on the night Tube, which would result in existing workers doing “a few extra nights per year within the existing working week”.
· The offer includes a pay increase in 2016-17 of RPI or 1%, whichever is greater, plus a £500 launch bonus to all staff on the night Tube lines plus a £2,000 transition bonus for drivers.

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