Here’s why RMT underground workers are striking

An underground timetable on Thursday 10 November
Support us and go ad-free

National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) members were striking on the London underground on the morning of Thursday 10 November. The reason is simple: once again, bosses are attacking workers’ rights. However, this time the strikes are less about pay and more about the Tory government interfering in Transport for London (TfL) – and TfL capitulating.

London underground: at a standstill

Early on 10 November, striking workers shut down most of the tube network:

The RMT is taking action over pensions, redundancies and changes to staff working conditions. It tried to make a last-minute deal with TfL on Tuesday 8 November. However, the company rejected the RMT deal. So, underground workers have walked out. As one worker tweeted:

Read on...


Tory attacks on London’s transport

The situation that has caused RMT workers to strike is complex, but the union summed it up well on Twitter.

First, the RMT noted that the Tory government is at the root of the problem:

This “politically motivated attack” on the underground stems from the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. As the Guardian noted:

TfL’s finances were wrecked by the coronavirus pandemic, with its budget mostly dependent on tube fare revenue. Ridership sank to 4% of normal levels in 2020 and has only recovered to around 70% of 2019 weekday levels.

The government stepped in to plug the revenue shortfall. However, in August a new deal it made with TfL had conditions. As the RMT noted, these include forcing:

  1. … pay restraint… [which] ties TfL pay awards to the public sector…
  2. TfL [to] continue to waste time and resources on the futile project to deliver more ‘driverless trains’ on the Underground.
  3. TfL [to] produce two proposals for reform of the pension scheme…

The RMT said:

These conditions are underwritten with the threat to remove funding if TfL fails to comply.

So, TfL complied. The RMT says the result of this is bad for underground workers:

Specifically, the RMT says the deal will result in:

  • 600 job losses.
  • A worsening of the work-life balance for staff, with managers being empowered to make shift changes at the last minute.
  • Around a 30% cut in people’s pensions.

Crucially, the RMT says TfL is not blameless in this. It claims the company was previously against the government’s pension plans:

London mayor Sadiq Khan also agreed with TfL on pensions:

However, both have now caved to the Tory government’s demands. So, RMT underground workers have been left with no choice but to strike.

Underground bosses must ‘stop indulging the Tories’

The union is demanding that TfL:

  • shelve its plans to cut station staff jobs,
  • withdraw its threats to existing agreements and
  • commit to not attacking the TfL pension scheme.

The RMT had some choice words for TfL and Khan, too:

The Mayor and TfL should stand firmly with their workers, the people who kept London’s transport services moving during the pandemic. Instead, they are allowing London Underground managers to cut jobs and undermine employment conditions on the Tube and they continue to indulge the government’s spiteful raid on the TfL pension scheme.

However, with a funding shortfall and the Tories on the counter attack, it is unlikely that TfL will back down anytime soon. So, expect more RMT underground strikes as the union is again forced to defend its members – and workers are forced to fight for their basic rights.

Read the RMT’s full briefing here:

Featured image via the Canary 

We know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support

The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.

The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.

So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.

Support us