Farringdon Tube Station. Photo: Wikipedia Farringdon Tube Station. Photo: Wikipedia

We asked Kieran Crowe, a TSSA representative, for his view on what the strikes are about

From 6pm on Sunday the 8th to 6pm on Monday the 9th, London Underground station staff in both the major transport unions, RMT and TSSA will be on strike across the entire system. Station workers have reached this point because years of cuts have made their jobs and workplaces all but unworkable. This action follows a very long process of trying to negotiate with the London Transport authorities.

Since the late 2000s and the mayoralty of bungling Boris, staff and facilities on the Tube have been cut to the bone. Under the guise of merely implementing new ticketing technology, in reality, an attempt to reduce the strong organisation one of Britain’s best-unionised workforces, over 800 jobs have been disposed with and ticket offices have been shut all across the city. The impact has been such that the remaining workforce is scarcely able to hold the operation together at all: overtime has become absolutely necessary to keep certain stations open within their minimum safety requirements and some stations are now routinely closing because no workers can be found to open them.

While this has been happening, of course, London has still been growing and the Underground, already one of the busiest mass transportation systems in the world, has only been getting more crowded. New ticketing technologies may save time on money transactions, but they do nothing for the many other functions station staff need to do. You need station staff to respond to accidents, to direct people who are confused and, in particular, to aid the disabled and people with other special needs. Disabled rights groups report that travelling around the Underground is becoming harder, not easier.

Worse still, a growing number of increasingly frustrated passengers – who can’t find their way around or buy tickets from defective ticket machines – rapidly becomes a crowd of angry passengers. Abusive, threatening and violent incidents against station staff have sharply increased in recent years.

The solution to all this, quite simply, is to restore proper staffing to our Tube stations. The new Mayor, Labour’s Sadiq Khan, commissioned a London Travel Watch report, which more or less confirmed this, stating that “more visible staff” and “focal points” are needed in all stations (it stops short of calling for re-opening ticket offices, though it must be said these were rather good focal points). London Underground workers are asking for no more than what the experts recommend!

If you live in London and use the Tube, their fight really is also your fight. Commuters in our city need safe effective transport, particularly if they are disabled or have special needs. If you can make it down to a picket line on Monday morning to express support for the strikers, you should definitely do this. But additional solidarity must come in the form of Tube users calling on Transport for London and the London government to break with eight years of Tory mismanagement and give us the stations and staff we need for our city.

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