Is the dispute "about money"?

Submitted by Tubeworker on Wed, 08/12/2015 - 13:33

A bulletin on the intranet from Steve Griffiths, posted on 11 August, contained the following, genuine paragraph:

"At yesterday's meeting, having previously argued it was 'not about money', further demands for pay rises, a shorter working week and increasing headcount were made. We explained that there was no more money available - it is clear that the unions expect our customers to pick up a bill running into hundreds of millions of pounds through higher fares or by forcing us to cut back investment to improve Tube services in a rapidly growing city. London is a 24/7 city and we are a 24/7 business - we will offer choice wherever we can but flexibility is essential to delivering a successful Night Tube service. No responsible management can give in to such demands."

The BBC picked up on Steve's incredulity about our demand for "even more staff", which we've commented on here. But this statement needs further examination.

When we've insisted that the dispute isn't "about money", that's because pay (while an aspect) isn't the central issue for almost any of us. We're much more concerned about issues of work/life balance, attacks on terms and conditions, and staffing levels. But all of those things need money to address them, principally through hiring more staff to make sure night working and extreme shifts can be distributed in a way that doesn't unfairly burden any worker.

And are we demanding pay rises? Yes, but only because LU management decided to bundle our 2015 pay settlement into the negotiations over Night Tube. We're hardly likely to demand that our pay is cut, at a time when key living costs (such as rent) are soaring. We've responded on the issue of pay here.

So what about Steve's claim that there is "no more money available"? There was still money available when LU wanted to close ticket offices (£134 million, to be precise); still money available to pay an external company to deliver condescending "customer service training" (£4.2 million); still money to hire nearly 100 new "Area Managers" on inflated salaries... it seems that, whenever LU wants to do something that fits in with its grand plan to de-staff the network and bring a corporate/retail culture to the Tube, it can find some dosh. But when the workers who make the Tube function make some demands of our own, suddenly the coffers are empty.

The assertion that passengers would have to foot the bill if LU met our demands only makes sense if you share LU bosses' view that the Tube is essentially a business that should be run on the basis of a private-sector, profit-driven culture. But, despite the wilder dreams the Tories, it isn't. It's a public service. If it needs more funding to increase staffing levels, ensuring workers' wellbeing and safety and security for passengers, government should increase funding.

LU bosses are launching a propaganda offensive in an attempt to portray us as fantasists making outrageous demands. We should response with our own propaganda which makes clear that the only fantasy if LU's notion that you can run a safe Tube service with hundreds fewer staff.