Tubeworker's blog

Thanks, But No Thanks

So, another week of ACAS talks has concluded, and LU has put down another "final" offer.

Needle-in-haystack hunters could point to the offer of a £200-per-night-shift payment for T/Ops, or the promise of 28 days' notice of rest days in proposed "cover weeks" for station staff, as evidence of "improvement"... but that would really be stretching the definition of "improvement". Overall, Tubeworker reckons this offer is, if anything, worse.

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Night Of The Living NIRMs

All sorts of troubling reports are reaching Tubeworker HQ about the depths to which the company is sinking to keep things afloat as our industrial action continues and our overtime ban bites.

One correspondent writes: "During the 8-9 July strike, it's rumoured that one of the 'all singing, all dancing' NIRMs (Network Incident Response Managers) covered a shunter's role despite having no line or geographical knowledge of the location, no technical training, and being an ex-DSM as opposed to ex-DMT or DRM."

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Movement on Fleet and M Door issues, plus a new dispute on the Piccadilly Line

The dispute over the use of agency labour on LU Fleet has been resolved, with the company agreeing to take on the agency trainers on standard LU contracts, for periods of at least one year.

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Just In Time!

Word reaches Tubeworker HQ that some staff who ordered thermal underwear during the winter have finally been sent them... in late July.

It's thoughtful of the company to do this, as August is traditionally one of the coldest months of the year. CSAs doing SATS on Central Line platforms, notoriously chilly and referred to by many staff as "the freezer", will undoubtedly be particularly glad of the extra layers.

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Tracks Are For Trains, Not Storerooms

Union reps have been pushing for the cleaners' storeroom at Hendon Central to be moved from its current location, which beyond the safety barrier. Cleaners don't quite have to walk onto the track to access it, but it's not far off.

ISS and LU say that, because cleaners' "Sentinel Cards" require them to be PTS accredited, they are licensed to go on or near the track to access their storeroom.

At best this is an inconvenient location for a storeroom, that cleaners need to access regularly. At worst it's downright dangerous.

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Yellows Give Cleaners Summer Blues

The bright yellow uniforms cleaners working for both ISS and Interserve have to wear are causing cleaners serious problems, particularly at above-ground stations where they're making them highly attractive to midges and mosquitoes.

Union cleaners at ISS pushed for a colour change, and got management to agree to revert to the old blue uniform. But despite the apparent agreement, the change has still not taken place, leaving cleaners in the unpopular "canary yellows" at the worst possible time of year.

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About That Offer, Steve...

A Tubeworker reader took a closer look at the "final" pay offer LU put on the table before our 8-9 July strike (you remember, the one they presented in the afternoon but said they'd withdraw unless the unions accepted it by 18:30). It made even worse reading on closer inspection than it did at first glance...


Am I reading pay offer wrong?

For anyone on over 50k - which includes all full-time SS1s, Service/Power Control & Technical Officers it is a worse offer than before!

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LU cuts corners on safety as overtime ban bites

The extent of LU's reliance on overtime to keep the Tube running is being revealed, as our overtime ban begins to cause serious problems.

Old Street recently became the latest station to close for part of the day due to staff shortages. Tubeworker hears that several other major stations have only avoided closures because managers were parachuted in to make up the numbers.

As Fleet workers uphold the ban, the company is cutting corners with safety critical procedures.

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Fleet Fights Agency Threat

You might think that 23-year old trains would still be pretty fit for the future, but the Central Line's 92 stock is so fragile that it needs a heavy overhaul.

You might think that would mean employing more people to do the work, and to train the new people taken on to do the work. But management have different ideas. They seem to think that a phone call to the local agency will do the trick.

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Strike Two!

ASLEF has called another 24-hour strike for 5-6 August. Word is that this was agreed between all four unions, and the others will announce shortly.

It is welcome news that further strike action has been declared. If our officials had gone back to negotiations without named action on the horizon, then there would be no pressure on management to concede anything. Naming a new date makes it clear that last week's strike was not about letting off steam, but about fighting to win; that it was not a one-shot release.

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Resist the new anti-union laws! Fight for the right to strike!

The RMT and Aslef ballots for our recent strikes outstripped the Tories' proposed thresholds for the new laws, achieving both a 50% turnout and the backing of more than 40% of the overall electorate. In response to those ballots, and to our brilliant strike, the Tories may now accelerate the imposition of the new laws (see this article from the Mirror).

That campaigning to resist them even more important.

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Ban Begins To Bite

Station closures have been reported at Liverpool Street and Walthamstow Central in the last few days, with further reports of other stations, such as Warren Street, only being kept open through desperate manoeuvres by managers.

The reason? Union members across the combine upholding the overtime ban we've put in place to keep the pressure on the bosses between strike days.

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Our Strike Was Magnificent: Now Build For More!

All four unions involved, nearly 20,000 workers on strike, picket in dozens of locations across London, and a total shutdown of the Tube.

"Rock solid" doesn't quite do it justice, does it?

If you were on a picket yesterday (most of which were lively, well-supported by all unions, and, in many places, well-supported by the public) you will have been part of one of the most empowering experiences we can go through, learning a spectacular lesson about the value of our labour and what happens when we withdraw it.

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Bullshit Bingo - Or, How To Take On The Anti-Strike Arguments

As our strike begins and services shut down, we're reminded, along with the rest of London, of the immense power of withdrawing our labour. But the accompanying barrage of vitriolic hostility in the media also reminds us that we're part of a wider fight; this isn't just about us versus our bosses, it's about us, as part of the working-class movement, against the boss class, its government, and the press which backs it.

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Our bodies are not built to work at night: we need more time off!

Chief Operating Officer, Steve Griffiths, belittled our Night Tube concerns when he said, "train staff [...] are being asked to work around an additional seven nights each year on average".

But Steve Griffiths won’t have to work these shifts! Seven might not sound like many extra nights to him, but it sounds a lot more to those of us who will have to work them. Even if Night Tube meant working just one extra night shift a year, we would still have a valid cause to fight, because our bodies were not built to work at night!

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Why We're Strong When All Unions Strike Together

1. We can stop the job.
2. No-one can jump ship to another union to avoid striking.
3. Management can't use the fact of some unions not striking to slag off and isolate the one that is.
4. We get a sense of how powerful we are when we unite.
5. Members of different unions get to organise together, picket together, discuss strategies together.
6. The usual inter-union sniping tends to abate for a while!

It would be even better if we had ...
1. One union for all Tube (and transport) workers.

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The fight is on!

RMT members have voted by over 90% to strike in the dispute over pay and Night Tube. The re-ballot of station staff for further action in the "Every Job Matters" dispute also returned a majority of over 90%, as did the ballots of LU Fleet members (for strikes against the use of agency trainers) and Jubilee Line drivers (in a dispute over de-skilling). The ballots returned even higher majorities for action-short-of-strikes.

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Night (Tube) Fever...

LU have published the first official "Night Tube" map, with some proposed timetable details too. It's surely no coincidence that they've done this days before RMT returns its ballot for strikes.

The narrative Boris Johnson, via our bosses, is trying to establish is clear: Look at this wonderful gift I'm giving you - and those pesky unions want to ruin it!

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Direct Action Forces ISS To Cough Up, But Short Payment Still Endemic

Train pickers on the JNP held an unofficial sit-in in the messroom at Morden after discovering mass non-payment of wages.

ISS soon took notice and agreed to pay the arrears. Non- and short-payment of cleaners' wages is endemic across the combine.

Cleaning companies make it hard for cleaners to monitor their pay by forcing them to access payslips online only rather than in hard copy at work.

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Euston, We Have A Problem...

A broken pump in a bin room at Euston led to severe flooding and potential health issues for cleaners and station staff due to stagnant standing water.

The contractor responsible for fixing the pump is dragging its feet, citing financial issues. Why can't LU just fix the pump itself through minor works? Yet again, the madness of outsourcing takes its toll on staff.

Tubeworker's advice to cleaners at Euston is: until the situation's sorted, don't use the bin room!

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BTP: serving the public or serving the bosses?

The British Transport Police (BTP) base their coverage of the Tube network (i.e., where they send their personnel, and when) on "Lost Customer Hours" (LCHs).

LCHs are a company measure of how many hours are lost due to incidents on the line. At busier times, when more "customers" are on the train, a delay results in more LCHs than at quieter times.

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Drivers' unity

A Tubeworker correspondent writes...​​

The feeling of unity amongst train drivers is the highest it has been for a long time. It is the reaction against managements insulting pay offer, and ruthless attempt to permanently increase night working with no compensation or mitigation that has caused to this happen.

ASLEF has had a very good ballot result, and it is an indication that the RMT which covers drivers and other grades will have a similar response.

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Massive strike vote from ASLEF drivers

98% of ASLEF drivers have voted to strike in the pay/Night Tube dispute, on a turnout of over 80%.

The result smashes the Tories' proposed thresholds for strike ballots, and shows the strength of feeling amongst drivers at the prospect of having agreements torn up so bosses can impose 24-hour running.

RMT, TSSA, and Unite return their ballots on 30 June; activists are working hard to ensure similarly resounding yeses.

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Agency cleaners discriminated against

When it comes to cleaning contracts, it's obvious that everyone is interesting in maintaining the status quo and continuing AGS' shameless exploitation of cleaners.

AGS is the agency to which Interserve, the cleaning contractor on BCV stations and depots, outsources much of its labour supply. AGS cleaners have insecure employment status and are at the sharp end of increasing discrimination, which AGS, Interserve, and LU seem determined to deny.

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Bonus for Coppers, Not for Us!

Asked by union reps what the policing arrangements would be for Night Tube, management revealed that there would be 116 extra coppers, who would be paid a 20% bonus for working during our all-night running!

Yep, you read that right. While insisting that we suck up the extra nights for no extra money, management are more than happy to see the police get a tidy bonus. And while advocating more police on the system, they also insist on fewer staff!

Like Woody in Toy Story, do you ever get the feeling you are being replaced?

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