Workers Hammer No. 226
Drop the charges against Mark Harding! Reinstate John Reid!
29 MARCH — RMT activist Mark Harding was arrested on the picket line at Hammersmith during the 48-hour Tube strike of 4-6 February. Carrying out the normal duties of a striking trade unionist, Harding reportedly asked a strikebreaker not to cross the picket line. For this he was charged under Section 241 of the Trade Unions and Labour Relations Act and detained in a police cell for 13 hours. Harding, Hammersmith and City RMT branch secretary, is well known and respected in the trade union movement for defending other victimised trade unionists. His initial court hearing on 25 February brought out over 50 supporters, many of them Tube workers. His case will be heard on 23 May at City of London Magistrates Court.
In mid-March, some five weeks after the strike, it was reported that John Reid, president of the RMT’s London Transport Regional Council, outrageously has been suspended from his job as a result of a complaint made against him while he was on the picket line.
Harding’s arrest and Reid’s suspension blatantly target union leaders in an attempt to intimidate workers resisting London Underground’s plan for savage cuts to the Tube workforce. The first swathe of intended cuts would eliminate some 950 station jobs, a deadly threat not only to the Tube workforce but to the travelling public as well, a fact reflected in the wide public sympathy for the February strike. The RMT suspended a second planned strike for the following week, pending new negotiations with London Underground.
Tube bosses and mayor Boris Johnson before the strike flaunted their intention to marshal an army of scabs to break the strike. It’s no coincidence that both victimisations centre on the picket line, the crucial weapon in the workers’ fight against this onslaught. Tube workers showed on 4-6 February they are prepared to fight these attacks, with some ASLEF members honouring RMT picket lines. All the unions in the Tube need to build solid picket lines that no one crosses, to shut London Underground down tight.
RMT assistant general secretary Steve Hedley declared outside Harding’s court hearing that there can’t be any settlement of the dispute until the charges against Harding are dropped. We demand: Drop the charges against Mark Harding! Reinstate John Reid!