ONE hundred angry RMT rail workers on London Underground lobbied Downing Street yesterday, demanding that tube maintenance work done by the collapsed Metronet private contract is taken back ‘in-house’.
They were joined by some civil servants from the PCS trade union who came to show their solidarity.
Paul O’Brien, an RMT member and track worker employed by another contractor on the Underground, Tube Lines, told News Line: ‘It should all be brought back in-house.
‘Forget privatising the East London line, the government should learn its mistakes.
‘It’s just going to be another fiasco, no matter what companies are involved.
‘Companies like Tube Lines and Metronet are making something like £50-£60 million a year from the public purse.
‘If everything was in-house then that money could be reinvested.’
John Hunt, RMT shop steward for Metronet workers at Ealing Common Depot, told News Line: ‘They’re screwing us, and it’s about time Gordon Brown admitted his mistakes.
‘Metronet was a failure. It went bust. It’s time to put the public back in charge of it and get us running as a solvent company again, as one, on London Underground.’
Martin Cahill, another RMT member at Ealing Common, added: ‘They haven’t told us anything. They’ve folded and we haven’t got a clue.’
Urging Prime Minister Brown to return tube contracts to the public sector, following the collapse of private consortium Metronet, the RMT said 2,000 of its members who were employed by the company were affected.
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow delivered a letter to 10 Downing Street, calling on Brown to allow Transport for London to bring the contracts back in-house.
‘The collapse of Metronet means there has to be a fundamental rethink on how the London Underground infrastructure is maintained and renewed,’ Crow said in his letter to the prime minister.
‘We support the view of the Mayor of London that infrastructure work should be taken back in-house under the control of London Underground.
‘Metronet’s shareholders abandoned the contract because they couldn’t get the public purse to underwrite their massive cost overruns – but they also abandoned the interests of passengers and London and the South East as a whole.’
Crow added: ‘Metronet workers are not only fighting to protect their jobs, pensions and conditions, they are fighting for the future of London Underground.
‘They want to be able to get on with the job of maintaining and renewing the tube by putting passengers before profit, and it would be absolute folly to once again break up and demoralise this skilled and highly dedicated workforce.’
The letter to Brown also said: ‘The fact is that Metronet’s shareholders – Atkins, Balfour Beatty, Bombardier Transportation, EDF Energy, RWE Thames Water – abandoned the contract because they couldn’t get the public purse to underwrite their massive cost overruns – leaving the public with a £2 billion debt, racking up interest at commercial rates.’
The RMT also said: ‘Despite their complete disregard for the interests of London the shareholders still managed to siphon off some £127.3 million that is in profit in those first three years (of the tube contract) – more than £800,000 a week.
‘It is even the more astonishing that we have reached this crisis when government funding for the Underground, to support the Public Private Partnership increased more than twenty-fold, from £44.1m in 1997-98 to £1,048 million 2004-05.’
The union said that a ‘profit-driven, fragmented infrastructure’ on the tube was ‘bizarre’.