A change has been made to the Train Operators Professional Agreement (Topra). It used to be that any driver who had safety related incidents on a manual line, and who had been on the job two years, had an option of moving to an automatic line. Management and Aslef decided they wanted to increase this to five years and, despite RMT protestations, it has occurred.
Of course, driving a train is an important and skilled job, but it doesn't take five years to master so why this move was made is unclear. Much like the changes in the 2009 agreement, also pushed through by Aslef, it is junior drivers who lose out, and management who make the savings.
There is another concern with this. Are we wise arguing for such agreements that suggest we believe a manual line takes less skill to drive than an automatic line? The same thing happened with the Four Day Week trial. It didn't happen on a manual line because there was a concern about fatigue causing safety incidents. But when it is the unions saying that, what message is being put out?
As workers and union members, it is important we know what our agreements say, and be aware of any changes that may be negotiated. These documents belong to us and we should ensure that our reps lets us know what is happening, and understand what the majority opinion is before further changes that might take place.