The RMT appear to be all of a dither over proposed strike action on the Northern and Bakerloo lines. Yesterday, union members rejected calls for strikes while today they appear to have reversed their position and taken instructions not to report for duty on Friday 17th and Saturday 18th December.
It’s apparently all over two drivers allegedly sacked, one for a breach of health and safety rules and one for ‘unacceptable conduct’ towards his colleagues, but Bob Crow is hauling out the conspiracy theories with claims the charges are trumped up and both were actually sacked for being active in the union. TfL have condemned the strikes and LU were typically irascible in their response, ‘The RMT leadership has utterly failed in its attempt to gain support from staff on the Northern line for a driver being dealt with over allegations of totally unacceptable and abusive behaviour towards colleagues. It is also utterly outrageous for the RMT to threaten strike action in support of someone dismissed for a serious breach of safety rules on the Bakerloo line. They should end these pointless strike threats and get on with working with us to deliver an upgraded Tube system for London.'
Interestingly, the numbers involved call into question the legitimacy of the strike – industrial action can only go ahead if a majority of those balloted back it and that doesn’t appear to be the case here. According to Annie Mole’s blog, ‘of the 192 staff balloted over the dispute, only 80 voted, with less than 20 per cent voting for strike action - 38 people. The driver in question has not even been dismissed. A similar low ballot turnout occurred over the dismissal of the Bakerloo Line driver. Just 42 people voted for strike action out of a total of 119 balloted - that's a third of the total members.' This was precisely the issue that incurred Boris Johnson’s wrath back in October when he said he wanted a 50% minimum vote before strikes could go ahead - one step further than the CBI’s suggestion of a 40% minimum vote.
Luckily for us, Bob Crow opened the Christmas spirit early and magnanimously promised no more strikes this year, but they’ll be back with a vengeance in 2011.