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I thought I’d put up my thoughts on the proposed RMT strike which is proposed to begin at 1859 today. I’ll preface this by saying that I’m not a member of the RMT so take my opinion with an appropriate amount of salt.

Honestly, I don’t think there’s much likelihood of a strike going ahead in a big way. This one is *not* popular even among the RMT staff I’ve spoken to and the ASLEF and non-unionised staff are definitely not up for it. There are some internal politics going on also but in general the feeling seems to be that it’s far to early in the pay negotiations to be chucking our toys out the pram and striking. This is something I agree with. There’s also a lot of anger against the people who seem to be calling for the strike. There are a lot of office-based TSSA scabs who have gained licences and worked on stations during strikes in the past. Their union is relatively weak and so many have suddenly switched to RMT and called for a strike now it is apparent that their jobs are at risk due to the takeover of Metronet and the poor economy. This level of arrogance is breathtaking and I’ve heard several extremely militant members of staff state that they *will* be working through the proposed strike because of this. Again, I’m firmly in that camp. By all means give no support to a strike if you disagree with it – but don’t scab.

With regards to the pay-talks, LUL management have already backed down somewhat and amended their principle offer and also opened up discussion on a second option. The problem with the pay-talks is not so much the amounts being offered it’s the length of time management want to lock us in for. Five years is a long time and in today’s world everyone is jittery. LUL have since brought this down to a four-year deal and have a second option which is two-years. This seems much more sensible and something which is worth exploring and it really doesn’t need Bob Crow being disruptive to the efforts of the rest of us to reach a fair deal. (Without wanting to go too much into the politics of things, Bob Crow is one of the key reasons I will never join the RMT whether or not they have something sensible to say).

That all said, I’ll post some advice in case the strike does go ahead. While I don’t think the majority of train or station staff will strike, it only needs for signallers or depot staff to not turn up and a line to shut. There must obviously be people controlling train movements and there must also be people on hand to safely prepare trains for service and help move defective ones. Should one break down in a tunnel with no depot staff available to help then it’s a fairly unpleasant walk out for hundreds of people – so trains don’t run if they don’t turn up.

One other thing to remember is that if the strike starts at 1859 that means that drivers would not book on for duty after that. Things are unlikely to just STOP at 1900 because drivers who booked on through the day are still working and will continue to the end of their shift – so long as there are signallers etc then their trains will continue to run. It’s only when they get to the end of their day that there are real problems. At some point after 1900 the presently-working drivers will come to the end of their shift and need to get rid of the train. Now because we can’t just dump trains anywhere this means that trains might need to be reduced in number in case relief drivers don’t pick up later. So potentially there will be a winding-down of the service during the rush-hour. You may not even notice this other than it’s a bit more crowded than usual if a train or two has stabled early. Potentially, if the signallers turn up then the only effect today will be that last trains run early as there will be no nightshift drivers taking them.

As for station staff – if they don’t turn up and there are insufficient numbers of staff there then a station must close. And as station staff are in groups which cater for several stations it’s possible that a couple on one stretch of any given line might have to close. Again, it’s unlikely that things will just suddenly stop at 1900 because the staff who began work before that time will be working through to the end of their shift.

None of that is probably terribly useful in helping people make a decision but I thought I’d try to give a bit of background as to how it might work. My advice for today is that if you are wholly dependent on tube travel to get home then you might want to think about leaving work at a reasonable hour and not leave it til very late. And also check that your usual stations are still open. Other than that it’s still just a waiting game to see if key staff turn up overnight. For the next few days, I would recommend checking the TfL website before travelling to see if your line is running. You can also find out about station closures and other transport options which will help you get to work and back. They Journey Planner tool is very useful and is available on the front page.

Editing to add:

While you’ve all been commenting (I’ll catch up with those in a sec) I just got a call from a driver who is just leaving work. He says the mood seems to be fairly quiet among the drivers and that many people we’d ordinarily expect to strike/refuse to cross a picketline tomorrow have stated they are coming in. That said, management “appear to be running around like headless chickens” and are putting in measures NOW which don’t seem to be warranted. I have my own personal theories about why the managers in my depot are so worried but I’ll save them for elsewhere. I’ll reiterate – CHECK before you travel and make sure you know other routes to home/work.

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