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  • Published in Interview

People's Assembly secretary Sam Fairbairn speaks to Leon, organizer of the RMT's Hands off London Transport Campaign about Boris Johnson, austerity on the underground and the union's fightback

What's happening to London Underground?

There's going to be 9 billion worth of cuts to the operating budget of TFL. These include the closure of all ticket offices and getting rid of 1000 jobs. This means a reduction in public services, a move towards privatisation, worsening conditions for workers, and greater safety concerns for the public.

How does this fit in with the government's austerity plan?

This dispute centres around a political issue – it centres around austerity.

The government is attacking the most vulnerable people and these cuts are a continuation of that. The removal of staff and the ticket offices will hit disabled people and pensioners hardest.

It wont affect the rich, it creates an opportunity for private capital to come in and profit. It's austerity for some, but it open season for others to make more money and exploit people. This will cause fare increases which will affect the poorest people the most.

Transport workers are striking over these issues in February. How can the strikes be succesful?

The strikes will be a success if members of the public, and other members of the trade union movement, come out and support the workers, stay unified and are convinced to continue this fight together.

Are Boris Johnson's plans an attack on the union?

This is certainly an attack on one of the most militant unions, in the most militant area. It's a test for the RMT and a test for the whole movement, it's an attempt to break us and if they get away with this they will go for others.

How important is it to get support from the general public and how do you get it?

We need to take to the streets and we need to be visible. Their propaganda makes it look like no one is opposed to it. We hope the strikes can inspire people to take a stand against all austerity. They've just cut an integral service with the closure of the fire stations across London and this is another attack which we cant let them get away with.

During our strike we will refuse to check tickets and let people travel for free to demonstrate to people that our strike can benefit everyone.

We are working with organisations like the People's Assembly as a way of pulling together the unions, the campaign groups, the political parties and the individuals.

What next?

The RMT and People's Assembly are part of Hands off London Transport campaign which is an umbrella group opposed to the cuts in the London Transport.

We'll be holding soap box style public meetings outside tube stations in the coming weeks. We're working on an open letter of support for the strike and in opposition to the cuts and we are appealing to individuals and organisations to get down to the picket lines to show their solidarity.

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