On Saturday 19th October, around 50 people attended a protest outside Whitechapel Underground station in protest at the plans to permanently close the ticket office when the station undergoes refurbishment as part of the Crossrail project. The protest was organised by the East Ham Branch of the RMT – I am their Branch Secretary. Members from across the country, from all grades – shipping to management – came and offered their support, handing out leaflets to the public, gathering petition signatures and making lots of noise. We were joined by members of the public too, including children, pensioners and people with disabilities, who will particularly suffer from the closure.
Assistant General Secretary, Steve Hedley gave interviews to LBC Radio and BBC London News, who broadcasted a very average shot of me and some great shots of everyone else. Bob Crow was unable to attend, but I forgive him because he came to our previous demo in July. I think it’s great that so many people are hearing our message because I am under no illusions that ticket office closures will end with Whitechapel. Bob Crow said that Whitechapel was a ‘line in the sand’ and I say it is the tip of the iceberg.
Even the Evening Standard published figures last week saying that the public want ticket offices. And don’t even get me started on Boris and his chocolate teapot election promise of a ticket office at every station. We on London Underground are already seeing station jobs slashed, abuse of agency workers and unfilled vacancies. Top this off with the threat of driverless trains, ticket office closures and further staffing cuts, things don’t look good.
As trade unionist we have two choices: roll over or fight back. This is start of the fight back. The tip of the iceberg. I don’t work in a ticket office, so the closures won’t directly effect me. Why then am I taking the lead in this campaign? One, it’s not me today, but it could be me tomorrow. And two, it’s the right thing to do. I believe that. That’s why I started the online petition, that’s why I have organised three protests to date, that’s why I designed a leaflet for the public, that’s why I spent hours contacting local councillors, politicians, businesses and residents about the issue. That’s why I got suspended from Facebook and Twitter.
I’m only one person and I’m doing what I can. It wasn’t just thanks to me that 50 people gave up their Saturday morning. It was a group effort, a unified effort. RMT prides itself on being an organising union, a union of actions rather than empty words and I’ve witnessed that more than ever with our fight to save the ticket office at Whitechapel.
RMT will oppose future ticket office closures in the same way it has with Whitechapel and probably in a bigger way. That is why this is just the tip of the iceberg.
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