Tube workers on strike in south London in November 2022 (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Thousands of London Underground workers were set for seven days of strikes over pay beginning on Friday this week. Different sections of the RMT union plan to walk out on different days, with full shutdowns on Monday and Wednesday of next week—8 and 10 January.

Workers have rejected a 5 percent pay offer from Tube bosses. Talks were beginning on Tuesday—it’s important there is no poor deal. The RMT’s demand is for a pay increase above the RPI measure of inflation, with a minimum of a £5,000 a year rise.

The pay uplift was supposed to be settled in April 2023, so the RPI rate for the period in question is around 9 percent. There should be no halt to strikes for less than the union’s demand. Sadie, RMT rep in Victoria South, told Socialist Worker, “The mood among workers in my area over pay is very strong.

“People are incensed that we’re being told 5 percent is the most they can offer while top bosses are raking it in. “Transport for London has created a £13 million bonus pot for senior managers while the commissioner got an 11 percent rise this year.

“Workers don’t believe it when they say this is their ‘final’ offer because we’ve had several ‘final’ offers. Bosses started off telling us that 3 percent was all they could offer. But somehow they discovered another 2 percent during talks.”

Sadie explained that people are also angry because bosses have threatened to impose the deal without agreement. “This was probably meant to make us think there’s nothing we can do about it, but it’s backfired by creating fury,” she said.

“We have several new union members who will be joining the strike and discussions at work are really good. For instance, one member had worried that we’d be seen as ‘greedy’ by striking but after discussing how much the bosses were grabbing he saw things differently.

“Another had started out critical of us having ‘too many’ strikes, then ended up arguing that we have decent pay because unions fought for it.” Sadie added that while some Tube workers are paid more than other workers, this is due to “strong union organisation”.

“Rather than saying at least we’re not as low paid as, say, a supermarket worker or a cleaner, we should be demanding that all workers get higher pay rises,” she said. “Plus some Tube workers, especially the lowest paid among us such as station staff, are struggling as rents and living costs have soared.”

With the RMT suspending several rounds of strikes over the past year, Sadie thinks it’s important this strike goes ahead. “We need to show that we are prepared to put up a serious fight. And we also need opportunities to defy the Tories new anti-union laws,” she added.

The Tories are demanding that London Mayor Sadiq Khan uses the new Minimum Service Levels laws that impose mass scabbing. He seemed unlikely to do that. But the possibility underlines the need for workers everywhere to organise now to defy the laws, pressure union leaders to fight and act unofficially if necessary to smash the pro-boss legislation.

For full details of who is out on which days, go to tinyurl.com/ RMT0124

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