Voluntary Severance and its Discontents

Submitted by Tubeworker on Tue, 11/03/2015 - 21:49

Hundreds of station staff have signed up to take voluntary severance (VS).

The VS scheme was one of the means by which LU claimed it was softening the blow of the "Fit for the Future" job cuts, arguing that, while nearly 1,000 jobs would be cut, at least no-one was actually being sacked. While technically true, and while voluntary redundancies are preferable to compulsory ones, many workers, faced with a regrading and displacement process none of us asked for, did feel like they were effectively being forced out of their jobs.

Tubeworker has always argued that VS schemes are bribes to sell our jobs. LU uses VS to cut staffing levels; once someone goes on severance, that job is gone. We argued that our unions should have done more to persuade members not to take the offer.

But many did, with the company promising them they would be allowed to go in early 2016, when "Fit for the Future" was implemented. Understandably, many started making plans for their post-LU lives.

However, our strikes have set back the implementation of "Fit for the Future", with the company now saying there may not be an across-the-board implementation at all, but a staggered introduction rolled out in different places at different times. Information about when VSers will actually be allowed to go has become vaguer and vaguer, with rumours now abounding that some may be kept on until mid-2016. Naturally, workers feel lied to and betrayed.

For those of us who opposed the VS scheme in the first place, and who are glad that "Fit for the Future" implementation has been complicated and delayed, we're caught between natural sympathy for our colleagues who were planning a life after the Tube, and who expected to be better treated after decades of service to LU, and not wanting to accelerate what is, ultimately, a savage job cuts programme. So what should our unions demand?

The fact that LU is having to keep the VSers on longer than expected shows clearly that those jobs are needed. If they were just deadwood that LU could do without, why not let them go immediately? By having to delay, the company is proving the unions' point: it is not possible to run the network on the bare-bones staffing levels it's proposing.

VS commitments must be honoured, and workers who have given many years to the company should be treated with more respect. They should be allowed to go when the company told them they could go. But they should be replaced! Unions should use the delay in "Fit for the Future" implementation to reinvigorate our fight against job cut and demand increases, not reduction, in the staffing level. Then VSers could leave knowing that they're leaving behind them jobs that will remain available to future generations of workers.