THE RMT began the first of its two 48-hour strikes on Tuesday night against the plan of London Mayor Boris Johnson to close all London underground ticket offices and slash hundreds of jobs.
Its powerful action stopped London and showed once again the enormous power that the organised working class has, provided the trade union leaders are willing to use it.
In fact, the determination of the RMT and TSSA to take the offensive and fight for the rights of their members in the face of the bullying tactics of Mayor Johnson, has won the support of the majority of the working class and the commuters in the London area.
Johnson, with his arrogant stance that he will not talk to the unions unless they call off their action has been brought down to earth with a bang.
An independent survey of 1000 tube users, taken just before the strike action, has confirmed that a clear majority of passengers believe that strike action against the Mayor’s plans to close ticket offices is justified, and that the Mayor of London should speak directly with the Unions to prevent strike action.
The survey also found continued opposition to the Mayor’s cuts.
The survey carried out by the polling organisation Survation found that almost two thirds (65%) of tube users felt that lawful industrial action as a last resort was justified, with only 29% not sharing that view. A similar number (66%) were concerned at the Mayor’s closure plans.
Almost nine out of ten (87%) of tube users felt that the Mayor should speak directly with the trade unions without preconditions if that meant strike action on the tube could be prevented.
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said yesterday: ‘No one wants the disruption of strike action but this polling shows that the public understand that when a union is pushed into a corner with a gun at its head it is justified in taking the action RMT and TSSA are forced to take tonight to defend jobs, safety and services.
‘The mayor and his officials should take note of this survey, withdraw the notice threatening jobs, thereby allowing us to suspend the action to allow further talks from a clean slate and away from the pressure cooker.
‘The mayor should do the honourable thing and meet with us.’
The unions want Transport for London to suspend plans to cut 950 jobs and close all ticket offices. TfL claims it will modernise systems and save £50m a year.
Speaking to the BBC, London Mayor Boris Johnson described the action as ‘pointless and unnecessary’ and reiterated his position that strike action on London transport should be illegal unless it was supported by more than 50% of union members eligible to be balloted.
When confronted with the fact that he was elected with less than 50% support, Johnson responded that people say: ‘Oh well you know, you only got elected on 40%. I just think that there’s a difference between a local electoral or political election and the operation of a vital public service.’
Quite, there is to be one law for the ruling class and its reps, and another for the working class.
The government has meanwhile declared that it is looking ‘very, very closely’ at plans to declare London Underground an essential service to curb the threat of future strikes.
Under this plan, London Underground will be subject to a ‘minimum service agreement’ under which staff would be required to keep a core level of services going regardless of any industrial action.
The BBC has been told that the Tories are considering including this proposal in the party manifesto for the next general election.
Now is the time for the working class to push forward to give full support to the tube strikers and the university staff that are taking strike action today.
The TUC must make it clear that it gives full support to the RMT and the TSSA strike action and that it will not tolerate strike bans or government intervention to halt the strikes.
Further, if Mayor Johnson refuses to negotiate without conditions, or the government seeks to intervene to halt the strikes, the TUC will call all trade unions out in a solidarity action to win this vital struggle for the trade unions and the people of London.