Tubeworker's blog

Drivers' Ballots

RMT is balloting drivers on the Victoria Line, in a dispute over the Night Tube rosters. Reps weren’t properly consulted, and the new rosters threaten work/life balance.

Meanwhile, engineering train drivers are demanding pay parity, after some were awarded a 6.3% pay increase that workers rightly insist should apply to all of them. RMT is also balloting its members in this grade.

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Pool Problem

Pool drivers at Barking depot on the Hammersmith and City line have been getting heartily fed up of being sent to cover duties at Edgware Road and Hammersmith depots.

Under the line pool agreements, pool drivers don’t get paid travelling time when they are sent in this way. But management were breaching their own agreements and sending drivers to other depots when there were uncovered duties at Barking - an issue raised by local reps, who have got the practice stopped.

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Drivers: Say No To Framework-Busting Trial!

The trial of a four-day week on the Jubilee Line could begin soon. The trial will see drivers working the same weekly hours but over four days rather than five. That means longer shifts of up to 10 hours when a meal break is included. And not just longer shifts, but longer "handle time." Maximum driving time without a break will go up significantly.

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ISS: Investigate Now!

Cleaning contractor ISS has withdrawn the graffiti remover they issue to cleaners, after evidence emerged that it is harmful, including potentially to unborn children.

It's scandalous that cleaners have had to work with a dangerous chemical.

ISS should now conduct a full investigation, with full participation by union reps, into the chemical's effects on cleaners, and be prepared to pay compensation if any ailments can be linked to it.

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Slimer Returns!

Recent heavy rainfall led to serious flooding at many stations, including Balham. Maintenance workers put bright green dye in the water supply to identify exactly where the flooding was originating, making the station look like it had been attacked by Slimer from Ghostbusters.

Incidents like this, as well as recent leakage problems at Oxford Circus, show some serious deficiencies in basic infrastructural maintenance. Years of budget cuts and outsourcing of maintenance work can't have helped.

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Something In The Air Tonight

A recent article in Time Out magazine reminded readers of a study by scientists at University College London, which concluded that the air quality on the Tube is so poor that spending 20 minutes on the Northern Line has an equivalent effect on the lungs as smoking a cigarette.

If that's the case, what effect does a two-hour SATS duty have? Or a night shift in the tunnel for track workers? Or the eight hours that cleaners often spend at platform level?

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Customer Service Managers: Side With Us, Don't Fuck With Us!

There's much to object to in the new grading system imposed as part of "Fit for the Future", not least the fact that we're all now doing work previously done by the grade above us for no extra money. But one particularly invidious aspect is the delegation of disciplinary power down to "shop floor" level. With Customer Service Managers (CSMs), most of whom are former Station Supervisors, now empowered to discipline other staff, we're now working alongside people who can directly discipline us for the first time.

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"Fit for the Future": New dispute on the horizon?

The RMT's National Executive Committee has announced it is "preparing a ballot matrix" for possible further strikes over the consequences of "Fit for the Future", the massive restructure on stations that saw nearly 1,000 jobs cuts, ticket offices closed, mass displacements, and forced regrading of every member of station staff.

"Preparing a ballot matrix" is a somewhat trade-union jargon-y way of saying: "getting the paperwork ready for a strike ballot".

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Oxford Circus Swimming Pool?

Staff at Oxford Circus are wondering whether they might soon need waders and galoshes as part of their PPE, as a series of leaks have led to significant build-ups of water on platforms and in passageways.

Station staff and cleaners have done a good job managing the situation to keep the place safe for passengers, but unless the underlying issue (which seems to be a problem with piping) is properly fixed in short order, that won't be possible for much longer. Union safety reps are on the case and will need to make sure management don't cut corners with safety.

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Post-"Brexit": defend migrants' rights, defend workers' rights, fight for solidarity!

Whatever one's position on the EU referendum, it's clear the atmosphere since the "Brexit" vote has been pretty toxic. There have been several instances of racist and xenophobic attacks on migrants and black and ethnic minority people. In politics, right-wing Tories haggle over who will succeed Cameron, and Blairites in the Labour Party have launched a coup attempt against left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn. Tubeworker supporters active in the Labour Party will be working with other activists against that coup.

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No to Driver Displacements

Remember that promise that there would be no detriment arising from the implementation of Night Tube? Remember that promise in the Pay and Night tube dispute settlement that work-life balance would not get worse and would get better where possible?

Well, those promises look like a sick joke to the 42 drivers across the combine facing forced displacement from their depots to depots an hour or more from where they work now.

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S Stock Seating Slip-up

Whatever the S in S Stock stands for it's certainly not Simple Seats.

The driver's cab has a lovely new seat but it has a complex mechanism - in fact, several complex mechanisms! - for adjusting its height, footrest and distance from the handle.

This would not be a problem if only management had bothered to provide training for drivers in how to operate it to ensure that it is ergonomically correctly positioned.

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The Inequality at the Heart of LU

Our long-awaited back pay has finally been paid, giving our June pay packets a bit of a boost.

We all know we're relatively well paid compared to a lot of other workers, but we also need to keep that in perspective. If you work on stations, it's likely that you're now being paid at least £6,000 less than you should be for the job you're doing, as LU has forced us all into unpaid promotions that have seen us take on the work previously done by the grade above us.

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Wot No Sidings?

The Central line sidings at Holborn are showing some wear and tear. So they are going to be repaired, right? Wrong.

Instead of putting things right, LUL intend to close them. Yep, don't bother giving them the brush-up that you can expect to have to carry out from time to time, just "decommission" them.

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Tube Lines strike ballot rains on Night Tube parade?

Tube Lines engineering and maintenance workers have voted by over 85% for strikes, after LU refused to discuss ongoing pensions issues until after the launch of Night Tube.

Pensions is just one of a series of struggles Tube Lines workers currently face: there are also outstanding issues relating to pay, and Night Tube staffing levels.

The huge majority for strikes, and the even bigger one for action short of strikes, shows the strength of feeling on these issues.

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Wanted: Extra Arms

Reports from across the network suggest that the only way for station staff to cope in the post-Fit for the Future world is to grow additional sets of arms, and possibly legs, or possibly to clone themselves, allowing them to be in several places, staffing several gatelines or several sets of ticket machines, at once.

Cuts to staffing levels, and the demand that every grade carries out additional duties, mean that there simply aren't enough of us to do the work required.

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1 + 1 = accessibility?

Lack of station staff is causing many issues for disabled passengers who use the Tube.

Tubeworker hears that stations with lifts have become less accessible since staffing levels have been cut. Most stations with lifts are now staffed for much of the day by the bare minimum number of staff required to stay open (1 +1, i.e. one supervisor and one CSA). During these times, staff are not allowed to use the lifts in case the lifts get stuck. Two staff must always be available to evacuate the station and deal with lift failures.

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Wot No Formal Investigation?

Tubeworker is beginning to wonder just how major an incident has to be before Central Line management will carry out a formal investigation.

Tree falling by the line and damaging trains? Nah. Tunnel roof falling in? Nah. Stabbing causing serious injuries? Nah.

Management seem to think that all these can be dealt with by local reports or 'workshops'. Perhaps that makes it easier for them to gloss over their own failings and blame staff? Without a formal investigation, who knows?

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Wot No Formal Investigation?

Tubeworker is beginning to wonder just how major an incident has to be before Central Line management will carry out a formal investigation.

Tree falling by the line and damaging trains? Nah. Tunnel roof falling in? Nah. Stabbing causing serious injuries? Nah.

Management seem to think that all these can be dealt with by local reports or 'workshops'. Perhaps that makes it easier for them to gloss over their own failings and blame staff? Without a formal investigation, who knows?

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Wot No Leave Swap?

Station staff whose roles are fully interchangeable and apply to swap leave are getting a big unreasonable No.

Say you are two former SAMFs, one covering down CSA1, the other covering down CSA2, then there is no reason why you could not swap leave.

No good reason, anyway. There is, however, the LUL reason aka. computer says no.

If this happens to you, don't accept it. Insist on your rights.

LU Withdraws 24/7 Staffing Of Control Rooms On The Jubilee Extension

In a move that provides further evidence that "Fit for the Future" is a dressed-up exercise in cutting jobs, LU have announced that station control rooms on the Jubilee Line extension (Stratford to Green Park) will no longer be staffed 24/7.

The company claims that the agreement stipulating the need for them to be staffed round the clock, made in 2001, is no longer applicable, and have agreed a modification with the ORR which will allow control rooms to go unstaffed overnight. The new arrangement came into place on 16 April.

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Full-Time, Part-Time: Equal Rights!

London Underground has said that new part-time Night Tube drivers won’t get the drivers' New Years' Eve bonus, and that only existing, full-time drivers should be entitled to it.

At the same time, in the effort to reduce weekend working for drivers, it has been suggested that pool drivers should work more weekends so rostered drivers work fewer.

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New Underground MD Coming from Down Under

Has there been a new Tube extension built to Australia? Maybe that’s where all the PPP cash went; anyway, we have a new managing Director on his (it’s always his) way from Australia. Mark Wild is leaving his current role as Special Advisor to the Minister and Secretary of The State Government of Victoria to take up the top job at LU.

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Mill Hill Spills

The Northern line's Mill Hill East branch was suspended this morning - with no station staff, it was not fit for the present, let alone the future.

The company's service update blamed "absence of station staff". Note the choice of words: "absence" implies that it's our fault for not turning up, whereas, say, "shortage" might suggest the truth - that LUL doesn't employ enough station staff to keep the job running.

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Parking Pandemonium

With station staff shunted out to locations they don't really want to be at, one consequence has been chaos in staff parking. A situation already made difficult by limitation on staff parking facilities has descended into farce.

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Prominent union activist attacked by management: an injury to one is an injury to all!

Trade union activist Glenroy Watson, a driver on the Victoria Line and President of the RMT London Transport Regional Council, nearly found himself out of work recently when a power-mad manager announced his summary dismissal, at what was only his second Case Conference since going off sick with a back injury.

No up-to-date medical evidence was presented; Glenroy was simply told that his Type 2 diabetes meant he was such a "high risk" that the company could no longer sustain the treatment he was getting for his back!

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Invading Our Privacy

On stations, the new "Fit for the Future" model has resulted in too many people having too much access to our personal information. Station Supervisors, re-branded as "Customer Service Managers", now have to do Return to Work Interviews and Disciplinaries, so they know our reasons for sickness, our medication, and other personal circumstances that lead to absence.

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