Thousands of workers of the London Tube joined a strike on Thursday, March 3, protesting the job cuts and other redundancies announced by the authorities. Tube workers under the leadership of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union started the protest with a strike on Tuesday, March 1, in which around 10,000 workers participated, according to estimates by the union. The union and the striking workers have condemned the decision by Transport for London (TfL) to cut 600 jobs in the London Tube along with cuts in pensions and worsening working conditions. TfL is responsible for most of the transport network in London including the underground rail (Tube) network.
The conflict between the transportation authorities and London Tube workers and RMT is long-standing. Workers accuse the authorities of shifting the burden of the COVID-19 crisis onto them. Night tube workers had already gone on strike against plans to force all underground workers to work night shifts.
According to reports, TfL has made plans to make fresh cuts worth £400 million (USD 533.52 million) on top of other cuts made earlier. This is likely to be detrimental for job security and working conditions, including for the workers of the London Tube. According to the union, TfL authorities and the London mayor have refused to give assurances on jobs, pensions and working conditions in the midst of a financial crisis.
On March 3, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said that “the funding crisis at TfL which is at the heart of this dispute is not of our making and our members are not prepared to take a hammering to pay for it. This week we have seen workers fighting back across London against attacks on themselves and their colleagues from political machinations that are out of their control. They have sent out the clearest possible message that they expect the threats to jobs and pensions to be lifted and basic assurances to be given.”
“The fight goes on and our executive will consider the next steps in the campaign. We remain available for talks with those in a position to offer a concrete solution rather than the hollow words we have been hearing from the Mayor and his senior officials. We have repeatedly offered a way forward and it’s time for those calling the shots to start listening,” added Lynch.
Amid their struggle against cuts and mass layoffs, the RMT was also subjected to a McCarthyite demonization campaign by right-wing media in the UK. Following their strike on March 1, The Telegraph ran two pieces: “The enemy underground: how ‘Putin apologists’ brought London to a standstill” and “How close is the RMT union to Vladimir Putin’s Russia?” attempting to demonize the union leaders and their just struggle for rights.