New Rule Book, New Danger

Submitted by Tubeworker on Mon, 04/09/2007 - 17:54

Managers are now giving the new Rule Book out to staff.

LUL has presented this as mainly just a make-over, replacing the unwieldy old Working Reference Manual with the shiny, new, easy-to-read, user-friendly Rule Books. If that was all it is, then fine. But it's not.

Read the little pamphlet that comes with it and you'll find that there are changes to the rules, too. And although management would have you believe that these are all sensible modernisations, they are far from it. Rather, there are rule changes which dilute safety procedures, threatening our safety and the security of our jobs.

For example, the 'second right' has not only be renamed 'assisted despatch', it has also been removed in situations where there is in-cab CCTV or PED doors. Drivers are expected to take authorisation to pass signals at danger over the radio rather than from a Station Supervisor. These new rules both weaken safety and write out the role of station staff, which will doubtless help management with their planned continuing purge of stations jobs.

Moreover, there is precious little on train prep, and no Line Supplements - ironically, management recommend you consult the old WRM for line-specific rules! And it seems that LUL thinks that it can outsource some of our safety rules to the Infracos!

Tubeworker has kept readers informed of developments we have heard about during the year (see here, here and other links in this article). Unfortunately, information has hardly come thick and fast from the unions.

The company agreed full-time release for a number of reps to consult on the Rule Book. But full-time release can be a poisoned chalice, as management do not so much consult the union as co-opt it. Reps can get so caught up in discussing details that (with a few honourable exceptions) they do not report back or alert rank-and-file members. Or they even get more worked up about their release arrangements than about the potential impact in the workplace of management's plans.

Unsurprisingly, management's 'consultation' with union reps turned out to be disingenuous, and now they are imposing the Rule Book without RMT agreement. Shockingly, but not surprisingly, rumour reaches us that ASLEF and TSSA have agreed to the rule changes.

RMT, to its credit, has not. But with the books now being dished out across the job, it is high time for the union to decide what it is going to do about it. Too often in the past, RMT has rightly refused to agree to management attacks when the other unions have, but failed to effectively fight them. Then, when the workforce feels the bite, the union says "well, we didn't agree it", as though that makes it OK. That's what happened with the Company Plan, and with a succession of ever-more-oppressive Attendance policies.

Apparently, RMT has demanded an emergency meeting of the all-companies Safety Forum, and quite right too. But with the Rule Books already printed, management are obviously in no mood to back down, whatever persuasive argument our silver-tongued negotiators put to them at the meeting.

Perhaps management think that having got their way over pay, they will easily get their way over this too. They are probably banking on us not being up for a fight. Many rank-and-file workers do feel deflated after the exhaustive and demoralising pay dispute. But part of the reason some people weren't up for a fight about pay was that they were demoralised by the unions mucking up the preceding fights over the stations shorter working week and service control restructuring! This is a vicious circle that we have to break.

There are various options as to how we could fight - from strikes through to organised refusal to operate the new, less safe rules. We need from our reps a definitive list of what exactly they consider to be the unacceptable rule changes, that we can scrutinise and assess. What is essential is that rank-and-file activists get together urgently to thrash out a strategy for action. Tubeworker and others are organising to make that happen.

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