Chris Nineham and Feyzi Ismail speak to pickets at Finsbury Park station during a 48-hour strike over job and service cuts
Twenty or thirty people were picketing at Finsbury Park station from 5 am this morning. The pickets we spoke to were very pleased with the impact they have had and said the shutdown has been very effective. Only a couple of workers went in to work and they were not RMT members. They also said some ASLEF members went in, who were unfortunately not on strike.
Just as good news is the fact that the pickets felt that the majority of the public were on their side. One said that there was 'an aggressive minority who were anti-strike, but most people showed real goodwill.' All the pickets felt this was a change from previous strikes.
The workers were convinced that the only way to win was to work with the public in a joint campaign. But they also felt they had to win - for the sake of everyone. Safety is a crucial issue, they argued:
'If you don't have staff around, what if there is an emergency - who will organise evacuations? And the stations will become much more dangerous. Lots of people in New York just don't travel because there are so few staff on the metro there.'
Workers explained how after the tube was shut down after 7/7 bomb attack loads of them had walked in to town to help with the emergency. They were heroes for a week, but now that incident - and the importance of having enough dedicated transport workers - has been conveniently forgotten.
But it is not just about safety. Ticketless stations will be a nightmare day to day. If anyone has problems planning a route or understanding what has gone wrong with their oyster - there will be nowhere to go. One of the pickets said that the closure of the ticket offices is part of a plan by the London Underground to fleece people:
'Last year alone they made £60 million of pure profit on unfinished journeys. With no staff around, it won't be as easy to claim your money back. They want to double their profits on unfinished journeys.'
Management seem to think that people will just use their smart phones to deal with any issues. But what if you don't have a smartphone? And anyway, everyone knows in the real world there are so many situations you just can't sort out online.
The message coming from the picket line at Finsbury Park this morning is that this a crucial fight for all Londoners. People who use the tube and tube workers - we need each other to win.
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