Tube workers to contest London elections
Tube workers to contest London election
By Iggy Kim
LONDON — On February 10, the Campaign Against Tube Privatisation (CATP) officially launched its slate of 11 candidates for the Greater London Authority election on May 4.
Over the past year, the militant London Transport Regional Council of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) has been vigorously fighting on two fronts: for better wages and conditions for its members, and against the Tony Blair Labour government's bid to privatise "the Tube", London's vast and profitable underground rail system.
As a result, several victories have been scored. Docklands light rail workers last month won a 35-hour week and an 11% pay increase over two years with no strings attached. Management caved in when a ballot to strike returned an overwhelming "yes" vote.
Next month, Tube workers are set to discuss a campaign for a 35-hour week with increased pay and an extra two weeks' annual leave.
In this fight back, the leadership of the regional council has created a dynamic of activism and confidence in the broader ranks. Last year, London was the only regional council to record a net increase in membership, numbering some 400.
The CATP was initiated by the London RMT in June 1998 to broaden the anti-privatisation campaign. While led by Tube workers, CATP is open to anyone seeking to keep the Tube in public hands.
Now, the CATP is seeking to up the ante by taking the battle into the electoral arena, openly confronting Labour at the polls. The RMT's pro-Labour national leadership does not support the CATP's election campaign.
The CATP slate includes two active members of the Labour Party. One of these, Graham Cee, said at a media conference that the two candidates' Labour Party membership will not compromise the CATP's campaign. This in part reflects the wide discontent within Labour about Blair's neo-liberal program.
Already, privatisation has become a key issue in Labour's pre-selection with Ken Livingstone, the leading contender for the mayoral candidacy, speaking out on it. However, Glenda Jackson, whom Livingstone has invited to be his deputy mayoral candidate, supports privatisation.
All 11 CATP candidates are leading activists in the RMT, various social movements and the political left. Other party affiliations include the Socialist Party, which has formally endorsed the CATP slate.
Cee is also a national committee member of the Jamaican People's National Party (UK) and represents the Black Advisers, a RMT forum for black members.
The wider platform of the CATP campaign includes putting a guard on every Tube train; free travel for those under 18, the disabled and unemployed; an integrated London transport system that is user- and provider-controlled; a four-year fares freeze; and ending racial discrimination in the hiring, firing, disciplining and promotion of Tube staff.
Candidate Dave Lyons, a train driver who is also active in the environmental movement, sees a ecological imperative for the CATP campaign. "An independent report by the University College London has forecast a 15% fare increase by 2003", Lyons told Green Left Weekly.
"Already, Londoners pay one of the highest public transport fares in Europe. A further increase will be disastrous for the environment as more and more cars will be forced onto our roads.
"But the government is preparing for this and is resisting lowering the allowable density of pollutants in the air down to European standards