A lesson for Corus, Vauxhall and us all
London's tube network ground to a halt on Monday. Train drivers in the ASLEF union threw up picket lines at depots across the capital, and other workers refused to cross them.
Thousands of members of the RMT rail union defied the law. By respecting ASLEF picket lines they delivered tremendous solidarity, and a popular blow against the New Labour government's plan to privatise the tube.
Last week the employers won a court injunction against the strike under New Labour's anti-union laws. But the strikers made it not worth the paper it was written on.
It was the most effective tube strike since 1989, when stoppages on the tube coincided with a strike on London's buses.
'The strike is biting everywhere. We have hammered them,' said Steve Crowley, a train driver in ASLEF, on a picket line at the London Road depot in south London. 'The Hatfield rail crash last year showed again the disaster of privatisation on the mainline. Four people were killed. The Public-Private Partnership scheme could lead to a Hatfield-style crash on the underground. Even more people would be killed. We can't let that happen.'
An RMT union member, wearing both RMT and ASLEF armbands, told Socialist Worker on the picket line at the Seven Sisters depot, north London, 'Things are changing. We're not prepared to let them steamroller us. We voted by nine to one, on a big turnout, to strike.
We followed all the union laws. Then an unelected judge said we could not strike because the RMT had not told management where all our members work. But our management scrapped the check-off system of paying union subs a few years ago, which would have told it where the RMT membership is. Anger spread through the canteens the following day.
People talked of throwing a mass sickie, taking out ASLEF membership for the day of the strike, or joining the picket lines. Put it this way-there was a determination not to cross the picket lines and to tell London Underground to get stuffed. We have done that today.'