The RMT and TSSA unions have called a series of strikes which will disrupt the London Underground in a row over the closure of ticket offices. There is very little support for this action, a survey released last week showing 82% of Londoners back the plan to bring staff out of underused ticket offices and onto ticket halls, gate lines and platforms.
Although there will be a reduction in posts, no Underground staff will be made compulsorily redundant and all stations will remain staffed and controlled at all times, with more staff visible and available to help customers. Indeed 200 jobs will be created when the planned 24-hour weekend Tube service goes ahead. London Underground management have committed to staff that there’ll be a job for everyone at London Underground who wants to remain with the organisation and be flexible.
Since the introduction of Oyster Cards only a tiny proportion of Tube journeys start with a trip to a ticket office and there will be staff on hand for anyone who needs help using the ticket machines. Far from being inconvenienced by these proposals Tube users will have more staff on hand and more flexibility with ticketing and payment options.
As It is not clear who this strike is trying to help let’s look at who this strike is hurting.
Firstly it will mean a loss if pay for all the staff on strike, and considering 70% didn’t vote in favour of strike action I think that we should spare a thought for them. It has been calculated that these strikes will cost the London economy in the region of £200 million, which is a significant sum at a time when we are just starting on the road to economic recovery. But those people most hard hid are those who don’t get paid if they don’t get to work. The thousands of London workers, typically on low rates of pay, who will either have to leave for work even earlier than usual or lose pay.
Does Bob Crow, on £145,000 a year, really mean to take money out of the pockets of the lowest paid both within his own union and elsewhere? I’m not the only one who thinks the RMT leadership have got this badly wrong, even the Labour party’s leader in London says the union have resorted to industrial action too soon.
There is another way.
The Conservatives on the London Assembly produced a report last year which proposed a series of measures which would be fair to Londoners and Tube workers. Struck Out proposes that London Underground strike action be replaced with binding, independent arbitration.
The Tube unions need to stop and think about who these strikes will hit and cancel the remaining action.