Tuesday, 7 September 2010

For a better service, support the Tube strikes!

Now that my official title is "trade unionist Vicky [sic] Morris" I thought I would say a few words about why I think people should support the London Underground strikes, and in defence of trade unions generally.

Trade unions have been the bedrock of the movement for democracy in this country. One of the first campaigns for universal (male!) suffrage was the working-class Chartist movement. One of their key aims was to organise a general strike for democracy!

Trade unions have fought for every measure that has civilised work - the 10 hour day, abolition of child labour, health and safety regulations - and been resisted most of the way by their employers. When middle-class reformers have pushed for welfare provision, it has usually been as a means to head off more radical solutions to social problems: working class revolt.

Today trade unionists on the London Underground are on strike to defend 800 jobs. In many ways this is a selfish strike - they want to keep their jobs. These are not cushy jobs, in spite of what the Metro will tell you. But they are decent jobs, and the alternative is to go onto the job market in a climate of high employment.

But in many ways this is also an unselfish strike: London Underground with fewer staff will be a worse service. Ticket offices will be closed more often; there will be fewer staff around to help you buy a ticket, give you directions, or intervene if there is trouble on a station.

What other means do Tube workers have to fight their cause than to withdraw their labour? The best thing passengers can do to defend the service is support the Tube workers' strike, and get the London Underground management and GLA to stop their job cuts proposal. Lobby your MP and GLA member (maybe not Brian Coleman, alas, as your words really would be falling on deaf ears, or Richard Barnbrook, for all the obvious reasons).

The Tory group on the GLA walked out rather than hear a motion against the job losses proposal in July. This issue will be revisited soon. Even Boris Johnson has said he worries that the government's deficit reduction plan is trying to cut too much too fast.

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