Why are tube workers on strike?

'The fundemental issue is government failure to properly fund transport for London'

Tube workers strike

London Underground was brought to a halt this morning as tube workers from the ASLEF and RMT unions walk out in an ongoing dispute over working conditions.

Over 10,000 RMT members joined ASLEF tube drivers in the 24-hour strike today, which is not about pay, but about fighting to retain existing working conditions and staff pensions.

Talking to LFF this morning, Finn Brennan, ASLEF District Organiser, said the fundamental issue is government ‘failure’ to properly fund transport in London.

He said workers were not prepared to pay the price of the financial deficit in public services caused by the government, and are making a unified stand today to fight to retain their rights.

“London transport has been left with a huge hole in its budget post-pandemic and the government are trying to fill that hole by attacking staff conditions and staff pensions and cutting staff numbers,” said Brennan.

“Our members are rightly saying we’re not going to pay the costs of the pandemic, when workers delivered a vital public service.

“It’s not right or fair to ask them now to accept cuts in their working conditions and pensions because the government refused to properly fund London Underground.”

The government are looking to cut £100 million a year from pension costs, meaning people’s pensions would be reduced by up to a third, according to Brennan.

“That’s simply not acceptable. People aren’t prepared to see their working conditions and their pension slashed.

“TFL management want to rip up all existing working conditions and impose huge changes.

“We’re always happy to discuss and negotiate change but change has to come about by agreement.”

ASLEF tube train drivers voted by 99% in favour of strike action today, as Brennan said members are willing to take action for ‘as long as it takes’ to protect their conditions, with predictions that strike action will continue into summer.

He added: “We don’t want to be in a position where we’re causing disruption to people, but the London Underground isn’t just important today, it’s important every day of the year.

“We need a properly funded transport system, just like we need properly funded schools and hospitals.”

London transport workers have already seen cuts to services, such as ticket office closures, and are making a stand now in order to safeguard the service for the future.  

Planned job cuts are also a major concern for striking workers, with the RMT writing to the London Mayor yesterday calling for the end to job cuts on the London Underground and for the prioritisation of public safety.

Commenting on the strike action, RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said: “Attacks on pensions, conditions and job losses will not be tolerated and the travelling public needs to understand that understaffed and unstaffed stations are unsafe.

“We will continue our industrial campaign for as long as it takes.”

Tube workers join junior doctors, teachers, civil servants, university staff, BBC radio journalists and Amazon workers all on strike today in one of the biggest days of strike action in decades.

Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward

Left Foot Forward’s trade union reporting is supported by the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust

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