Tubeworker's blog

Picc Of The Bunch!

Fleet maintenance workers on the Piccadilly Line have won an excellent victory in their fight for permanent jobs.

35 workers, employed on two-year, fixed-term contracts, will now be guaranteed permanent jobs.

It was achieved solely by the resolute direct action taken by workers, who stuck to a solid work-to-rule. The impact on the service was massive, with trains being unable to run, causing severe delays. They began their action on 25 July: it took less than 48 hours for management to cave completely.

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Improvement Notice

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR), the independent transport regulatory body, has issued an official "improvement notice" to LU regarding safety on stations.

The admonishment comes off the back of the tragic incident at Canning Town, where a passenger died after falling down stairs in a non-public area of the station. An investigation clearly showed that job cuts, which led to lone working and the control room being de-staffed, had played a key role.

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Gender-Neutral Announcements part 2

We are all used to receiving the memo with management's latest wheeze, giving us some new terminology or buzzword to use. It is usually annoying, ridiculous or both. But just occasionally, a change comes that, once you look at the issues, is fair enough - even welcome and progressive. One of these is the scrapping of the term 'Ladies and gentlemen' in announcements. Why is this a good move?

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LU Attacks Our Reps

Although we live in a (relatively) democratic society, that democracy ends almost entirely at the workplace. We are told what to do by managers no-one elected, paid vastly inflated salaries they decided amongst themselves. The only means by which workers (the people who really make society run) have ever been able to impose even minimal levels of democratic functioning into the workplace has been via our unions, which we have forced management to recognise, giving us structures through which to elect workplace representatives.

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Vinci Immigration Busts?

Tubeworker HQ has heard rumours that Vinci cleaners are getting messages from their managers summoning them to random meetings where they're met with demands to produce their immigration papers or proofs of right-to-work.

UK immigration policy is a shifting landscape designed to discriminate against poorer migrants. If you get any invite to any formal meeting with management, tell your union and make sure you bring a rep. Speak to your rep first, as it may be appropriate to seek advice from the union's legal department about the best approach.

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Cleaners: Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss...

It's been an open secret on the job for some time now that the recipient of London Underground's fabled "super-contract", via which it will consolidate the separate cleaning contracts currently held by Interserve, ISS, and Vinci, into one, will be ABM, a USA-based facilities management giant.

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Yes to gender-neutral announcements, yes to real equality in the workplace!

Tubeworker fully supports the recent announcements that gender-specific announcements like "ladies and gentlemen" will be phased out in PAs and SATS.

The term "ladies and gentlemen" is outdated, and divide people on the basis of gender. Many people do not identify as male or female, or have fluid gender identities, so why should our announcements make these people feel excluded?

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SATS in Civvies

The Diplomatic Service is obviously a unique growth area in TfL, as Ambassadors have been popping up everywhere. This weekend, Travel Ambassadors have been popping up along the Central Line, at locations including Bethnal Green, Mile End and Ealing Broadway.

Of course, we wouldn't need extra help from admin staff in hi-vis if we had enough station staff in the first place, and we would have enough station staff in the first place if management hadn't cut the numbers repeatedly over recent years. But what do we know? We only work here.

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Four-day week trial to end

The four-day week trial LU has been running with drivers on the Jubilee Line is due to come to an end on 2 September. Beset with problems from the start, primarily because at the east end of the line so few people wanted to do it, the trial has seen further drop outs and problems with covering shifts.

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Picc fleet workers gear up for action in fight for permanent jobs

Picc fleet workers will commence industrial action from 25 July in their dispute to win permanent jobs and push back casualisation.

RMT members will participate in various forms of "action-short-of-strike":

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Wot No Pay Rise?

Interserve staff have received letters from the company informing them that the increase in their pay review, already a fortnight late, has been pushed back from 1 July to 1 October. They have told staff they intend to implement a 2.5% increase from 1 October, but with no backpay to 1 July, the date staff should have had the increment.

Interserve's reasons for doing this are remarkably thin gruel. They cite "significant financial headwinds" - whatever the hell that means.

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Wot No Privacy?

LUL management changing Station Supervisors into Customer Service Managers has significantly increased the number of managers, with staff's personal and medical details being shared liberally among them. This situation is unacceptable, and here at Tubeworker, we want our unions to challenge it.

When staff are sick, or have domestic problems, every CSM on their group gets to see a 'live file' that tells them all the details. Sometimes CSSs get involved too. Emails fly around telling groups of people about a staff member's private situation.

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HOT mess

Union safety reps have been telling LU for some time now that the "HOT procedure" for identifying suspect packages needs improving.

LU seem to have tacitly admitted that existing procedures are inadequate, but their changes make things worse. Rather than reviewing the "HOT procedure" and looking for ways to improve it, they've simply imposed an additional instruction that members of staff look inside suspicious bags and cases! So if we identify something as suspicious, we're now expected to start rifling around inside it.

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SATS life?

The Area Manager at one busy Zone 1 station has opted for the stick over the carrot in response to some disappointing scorecard figures for staff presence on platforms. The AM has instructed CSMs and CSSs to make daily inspections of all SATS duties, effectively creating another level of performance management on top of the existing CMS.

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Picc fleet workers vote for strikes

Fleet workers on the Picc have returned a thumping majority for strikes in their fight for permanent jobs, easily clearing the thresholds of the Trade Union Act.

144 workers were balloted, with 121 (84%) returning their ballot papers. 115 voted for strikes, and 119 for action short of strikes. Six workers voted against strikes, and two against action short. That's an 80% majority for action!

The dispute aims to force LU/TubeLines to make all new jobs permanent, and abandon their current plans to recruit new staff on two-year fixed-terms contracts.

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IM Emergency?

LU staff are being told to contact IM (IT) services only in an "emergency". IM services are apparently too short staffed to deal with routine queries.

Hardly surprising! LU decided that iPads and apps were the answer to everything. Tubeworker wonders how many extra IT staff were hired to support all the new technology? Clearly not enough if we're having to beg for IT support.

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It was recently announced, following a study by scientists from London Metropolitan University, that various "superbugs" were loose in LU tunnels and stations, borne on poor quality air.

The Mayor has come up with the bright idea of doing a "super clean" on up to 50 stations overnight over the summer.

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Safety First

The stretch of the Hammersmith & City and Circle Lines running past Grenfell Tower remain suspended, as investigations into the tragic fire continue.

This is absolutely right; no corners can be cut with safety, and until those investigations are concluded and the area made safe, that suspension should remain in place.

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Grenfell Fire: Never Again!

This is a joint blog post from Tubeworker and Off The Rails.

The working-class people killed in the Grenfell Fire were killed because they were working-class. They were killed for being working-class — and, many of them, for being people of colour, and/or from migrant backgrounds — and not being able to afford better quality housing, or to afford legal representation to challenge the negligence of their landlords that tenants' groups had called out for years.

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Picc Line fleet workers ballot for strikes against casualisation

RMT is balloting Tube Lines workers at Northfields and Cockfosters depots for strikes to stop the introduction of a two-tier workforce, after Tube Lines announced plans to employ 35 new staff on fixed-term contracts.

The union position, quite rightly, is that all new jobs should be permanent. Allowing fixed-term contracts to become the norm leads to casualisation, with workers becoming disposable depending on when the bosses decide the need is greatest.

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Tories' anti-union laws scupper "London Bridge 3" ballot: fight must go on!

Today we received the disappointing news that the ballot for action to win reinstatement for Lee Cornell, and justice for Dave Sharp and Saeed Sioussi (the "London Bridge 3"), had failed to meet the 50% turnout threshold required by the Tories' Trade Union Act.

Despite returning a majority of 80% in favour of action, the 35% turnout is not enough for the union to call a legal strike, meaning cross-combine action in this dispute is impossible without a re-ballot that does hit the thresholds.

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Cash Out

London Underground has not provided enough training to station staff on how to handle cash from the ticket machines since ticket offices closed.

Money piles up in the machines because too few staff are trained on how to take it out. LU brought in new snazzy Cash Handling Devices (CHD), and barely trained us on them, saying they were "easy to use".

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Build on the Labour surge

Labour's surge in the 8 June is a source of huge political hope and inspiration for all working-class people.

The outcome, a Tory government only given a workable majority via the support of the far-right Democratic Unionist Party, is a grim outcome, but an unstable one. Another election, eminently winnable for Labour, is possible soon.

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Interserve turns the screws

Union reps and activists at Interserve are reporting an uptick in workers being hauled in for disciplinaries, with bosses often attempting to take advantage of an assumed lack of knowledge of their rights on the part of some cleaners.

RMT has issued the following advice to its members: "If you are called in for a disciplinary hearing, or a so called ‘fact finding’ which you think might lead to a disciplinary hearing you must immediately contact your union representative and ask them to accompany you to the 'investigation'."

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LDI Difficulties

We always knew that devolving disciplinary authority down to "shop floor" level would cause difficulties, and we're taking no pleasure in being proved right. Forcing former supervisors (now "CSMs") to discipline their immediate operational colleagues has led to all sorts of problems on stations, to which Area Managers, in their wisdom, have added a further complication: it now seems they're leaning on CSMs to issue 26-week warnings as standard.

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Luco Loco at Oxo

A rather dystopian, if garishly-coloured, vision of TfL/LU's corporate, semi-privatised future at Oxford Circus today, as wealthy sugar merchants Lucozade ran a promotion offering free bottles with a contactless chip worth one free Tube journey embedded in the bottom.

It has long been an ambition of LU bosses, and some politicians, to boost private sector involvement in the Tube — from selling off former ticket office space to retailers like Amazon, Tesco, and Argos, to flirting with procuring corporate sponsorship for station names ("Lucozade Oxford Circus", anyone?).

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'Appy Now?

LU is on something of an app binge at the moment, rolling out new apps for rostering and coverage, and signing contractors onto stations.

There have been many hiccups, and the launch of the "Rostering and Coverage Tool" (RCT) app has been put back twice.

An app that makes it easier for staff to swap shifts and annual leave allocations would be very welcome. One that appears to have the ability to monitor and police staff movement, as this app appears to, less so.

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