RMT members on the London Underground have won significant concessions as a result of their militant strike action in defence of jobs, with the reinstatement of nearly 60% of axed jobs. As a result, further strikes - originally planned for today - have been suspended. But all of these gains, as this London Socialist Appeal supporter comments, have been achieved without the help or support of the Labour Mayor, Sadiq Khan.
On 8th and 9th January, thousands of London Underground staff went on strike to defend jobs and safety on the tube. Almost 900 job cuts have left Tube stations dangerously understaffed and resulted in vastly increased workloads for the remaining staff. The strike was rock solid and meant an almost total shutdown of the network, demonstrating the total commitment of tube workers to wage a serious struggle to victory.
The 900 job cuts had been introduced by the former Tory Mayor, Boris Johnson. But now we have a Labour Mayor in the form of Sadiq Khan, why aren’t they being reversed? Indeed, after Jeremy Corbyn’s stunning victory in the Labour leadership contest John McDonnel, Corbyn’s shadow chancellor, solemnly committed that Labour would now support all workers in struggle as a point of principle. Someone must’ve forgotten to pass the memo on to Sadiq!
Instead of standing in solidarity with Tube staff and attacking the Tory government for its slashing of Transport for London funding, he called the strikes ‘utterly pointless’ and spent the day condemning the striking workers on every media platform available. In this way, Sadiq has revealed himself to be little more than a scab. Mayor Khan has made much of his working class credentials, often telling Londoners that he grew up on a council estate and that his dad was a bus driver. One wonders that if his own father had been on strike whether he’d be scabbing on him too.
The reality is that, although Sadiq might be a Labour Mayor, he is totally opposed to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Mayor Khan is a Blairite through and through and it is clear that many on the right of the party see his position as Mayor as a power base from which to attack Jeremy. Indeed his speech at last year’s party conference, after Jeremy has won a historic second victory with an increased mandate, consisted of nothing more than a series of thinly veiled attacks on his party leader.
The key question is a political one: do you support workers in struggle and fight to change society or do you attempt to offer a few meagre reforms while propping up this rotten bosses’ system? We must be under no illusions as to which side Mayor Khan is on. After all, he spent his election campaign loudly announcing that he would be the most pro-business Mayor in history. And as any socialist knows being pro-business is not compatible with being pro-worker. In this age capitalist crisis driven austerity all the bosses have to offer is wage cuts and job losses so being pro-business necessarily means supporting attacks on workers.
What has been the response of Corbyn to Mayor Khan’s clear betrayal of workers? Angela Rayner, the Shadow Secretary for Education, tweeted in support of the strikes, but there’s been nothing but deafening silence from the rest of Corbyn and his team. This is consistent with Corybn’s strategy of attempting to compromise with the right wing, hence he doesn’t dare publicly criticise his London colleague. But Sadiq is more than happy to pour criticism upon Corbyn and this shows the Blarites will never be willing to compromise – they won’t rest until Corbyn is gone and the party is back firmly under their control. Instead of compromise, Corbyn should be exposing the Blairites for what they are and waging a struggle to transform the party into a truly socialist one from top to bottom.
When it comes to the tube strike, the facts speak for themselves. After the RMT instituted an overtime ban there were 80 station closures in a space of a month. This means keeping stations open is totally dependent on the overtime of the remaining workers and shows just how dangerously understaffed the Tube is. Even senior management at TfL know this as leaked memos show they agree the job cuts have had a devastating impact on safety and staffing levels need to be increased.
A true Labour Mayor would be joining striking Tube workers on the picket lines and campaigning for the Tory government to restore the funding cut from TfL. Instead of blaming the Tories, Sadiq blames the workers and parrots their line that there just isn’t enough money. We know there’s plenty of money in society, the problem is it is just sitting in the bank accounts of the rich. When it comes to making savings, the RMT have put forward the eminently sensible suggestion of capping wages at £100k and bringing privatised cleaning and engineering staff back in house. Funnily enough, the Tube bosses earning up to £600k don’t seem too keen on the idea.
The RMT have won significant concessions as a result of their militant action. As a result, further strike action - originally planned for today - has been suspended, for now. Socialist Appeal supporters will be joining our brothers and sisters on any further picket lines in solidarity with their struggle. A Labour Mayor of any worth would be doing the same.