Tubeworker's blog

The Price of Safety?

London Underground seems to be taking drivers to task for PTI incidents on the District Line, going as far as sacking one recently.

But on the District Line, the cameras and monitors are so old that the driver frequently does not have a clear view of the platform. LU says it doesn't need to upgrade the old kit, as it will be obsolete when new S-Stock is rolled out.

But that could be a year away; what's the price of safety until then? Drivers are already rightly requesting assisted despatch from station staff. That will cause LU delays. Maybe that will make them cough up.

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ISS spies on staff

Last year, RMT cleaners working for ISS on the Jubilee, Northern, and Piccadilly Lines (JNP) contract fought a heroic battle to try and stop the introduction of "biometric fingerprinting" machines. The union balloted for action, and cleaners boycotted the machines. They were subsequently locked out for months on end. (Click here for background to the dispute).

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More indignities for agency cleaners...

Back in January, Tubeworker reported how cowboy agencies like “AGS People” are screwing Tube cleaners by forcing them to register as “self-employed contractors” or “limited liability companies” in order to avoid paying tax on their wages and get out of respecting statutory rights.

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Wot No Security Checks?

Central and Waterloo & City line staff were no doubt delighted to receive a bulletin from our management stressing the importance of our role in security checks.

We wholeheartedly agree. The hours that station staff spend every day checking areas and doors are secure, registering each check with a "wand", is essential to the security of millions of people travelling on the Underground. It - quite literally - saves lives. It's nice to see management acknowledge this.

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Pay offer? Pathetic. New rosters? Risible. The company is insulting us: time to reclaim some dignity

Our bosses seemed determined to test our collective boiling point. First, they forced us into a confusing and unclear “Location Preferencing” process, making us nominate a station to work at without knowing anything about its proposed roster or staffing levels. They told us we had to “be flexible”.

Then they kept us in the dark about our rosters for our months, fobbing off our reps and only revealing rosters at the last possible moment, with a rushed, two-week “consultation process” (ending around 25 March) granted for us to get to grips with them.

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Reinstate Clara Osagiede! Touch one, touch all!

Another day, another outrageous sacking on London Underground.

Cleaners' rep and organiser Clara Osagiede has been sacked by Interserve, the company to which LU outsources cleaning services on the Bakerloo, Central, and Victoria Lines, on trumped up charges.

RMT is already in dispute with Interserve over short- or non-payment of wages, management bullying, and victimisation of reps including Clara and Alex Boachie (who Interserve managers had arrested at Hainault depot last year).

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Dear Staff, Here's How Much We Pay You

Wasn't that nice of London Underground Ltd to send us all a letter telling us how much the company pays us? And what a coincidence that it just so happened to arrive just as the pay talks are kicking off in earnest.

Perhaps it would have been simpler to send us all a postcard saying "Don't you get lots of lovely pay and perks? Why on earth would you want any more? Don't be greedy now ..."

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Drivers to strike against unfair sacking

RMT drivers will strike from 21:30 hours on Saturday 7 March until 03:59 hours on Sunday 8 March 2015, as part of the campaign against the unfair sacking of Morden depot driver Alex McGuigan.

This action is being taken principally to keep the strike ballot live, to allow reps to build and plan further action.

Tubeworker calls on all drivers due to work during these hours, of whatever union, to support the strike and back the campaign against LU's abuse of procedures.

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Uniform appeal!

The LU training school sent out an 'appeal' across LUL for old uniform that might be lurking in the back of storerooms and cupboards.

With the new uniform scheduled for late this year, it appears that LU is already running existing stocks down to the extent that new starters are on stations without coats and other basic items!

So LUL will spend millions on new uniform for its vast corporate re-brand, but will scrimp and save on current uniform so we're left to freeze on stations? Sounds about right!

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Customer Disservice

A Tubeworker correspondent writes...

Our "Passenger-Operated Machines" (POMs) at Tube stations have recently been re-programmed to keep hold of the money, or charge the punters' bank accounts, in the event of a "failed sale" (where the desired and paid-for ticket or Oyster product doesn't arrive).

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Labour and the railways

Labour's Shadow Transport Secretary Michael Dugher seems to have come round to the idea of renationalisation on the railways. He stated recently that he would like to "put the current franchising system in the bin" and that under a Labour Government "the public sector will be running sections of our rail network as soon as we can do that".

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The Answer To Austerity? Expropriate The Banks!

Tubeworker reported recently on management's tiny-violin-playing, tear-jerking claim that, due to our austere economic times, workers shouldn't expect a pay rise out of the talks which began recently (see here for more).

But in fact, we live in a society of immense wealth, where there's enough money sloshing around to guarantee a life of relative luxury for everyone. The problem is who controls is.

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Pay talks begin: whose belts should tighten?

No sooner had the preliminary discussions on a new pay deal for LU staff begun than the Chief Operating Officer got his tiny violin out and started tugging at our heartstrings about how terribly hard up the company is.

"We face a difficult financial climate ... Further pressure on our finances is inevitable ... Organisations in both the private and public sectors have seen severe pay restraint or pay freezes..."

In other words: don't get your hopes up, guys and girls. We might find you some crumbs from the table, but that'll be about your lot.

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Drivers' ballot: keep up the fight for justice, no to management meddling!

Drivers in the RMT have voted, by 299 to 221 on a 42% turnout, to strike in protest at the unfair sacking of Northern Line driver Alex McGuigan.

Drivers in Alex's depot, Morden, already held a solid strike in December, after which RMT decided to ballot all driver members.

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Timed Out

So a customer takes a bit too long buying a ticket from a machine, and gets timed out. So you can give them their money back, right?

Well yes, but only if you have a ticket office. Which presents something of a problem in a company which has begun closing all its ticket offices. Cue abuse of staff and many rightly frustrated passengers. Hardly world-class customer service, is it?

This is just a taste of the chaos that will engulf us if this carries on. Stop these ticket office closures now!

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Clean up exploitation

The mess of outsourcing on London Underground is allowing cowboy cleaning companies to treat workers like dirt.

LU outsources its cleaning services to giant corporations like Interserve and ISS. Their workers face low pay, bullying and harassment from bosses, invasive biometric fingerprinting technology, and perennial problems with wages being paid late or short. Union activists are singled out for discipline and victimisation.

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Lancaster Gate horror shows risks

The horrific stabbing of a CSA at Lancaster Gate shows some of the risks we’re exposed to at work every day.

Fortunately, the colleague survived the attack. But with management set on bringing lone working into operation on around 55-60% of stations, we’ll be more exposed and more vulnerable.

Safety for staff and passengers means: properly-staffed stations!

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RMT drivers: vote for strikes against abuse of procedures! Justice for Alex!

RMT has begun balloting is driver members across the combine for strikes to protest at the unfair sacking of Northern Line driver Alex McGuigan. Tubeworker urges all our RMT-member T/Op readers to vote yes.

The issue at the heart of the dispute is a simple one. The procedure used to sack Alex was flawed and unfair. After he failed a breathalyser test, Alex’s urine sample was only tested for drugs, when LU’s Drugs & Alcohol Policy clearly states it should have also been tested for alcohol.

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Detrainment Doublespeak

Central Line staff were amused to read a bulletin from the line's management reminding us of the importance of physical detrainment by a member of staff. It seems like only a couple of years ago that it was us telling them how important this was when the company tried to impose the notorious 'flash and dash'.

Industrial action by both RMT and ASLEF on the Bakerloo Line disposed of that idea before it even reached the Central Line. A lesson to us all.

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S Stock: Station Staff Stand In For Technical Shortcomings (Again)

You'd think that the idea of bringing in new train stock would be to help the service run more smoothly. And you'd think that at the design stage, there would be some kind of of measuring or modelling exercise to check that the new stock will, erm, fit the existing infrastructure properly.

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DLR Workers Win Dispute!

UPDATE: This dispute has been won! The strike is therefore called off. See the union press release here.

When Keolis/Amey took over the DLR contract, they thought they could contract out a bunch of the staff and worsen their working conditions.

Wrong! DLR workers have voted by a huge majority in an equally huge turnout for strike action and will go ahead with a 48-hour stoppage later this week if their new employer does not back down.

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Tube Ads Add Insult To Injury

Not content with cutting around 850 jobs and shutting every ticket office on the underground, LUL have also launched a spin campaign which make even Tony Blair nauseous.

The ads include promo for "Travel Information Centres" (which obviously omit to mention that all ticket offices will close), and the claim that staff will be more "visible" (despite being 850 fewer in number).

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Business On Board

'Baby On Board' badges are to be commercially sponsored. Yes, just when you thought it might be possible to do something helpful for passengers just for the sake of it, the commercial vultures swoop. They never miss an opportunity, do they? Not even before you're born.

The badges will now be presented to pregnant women in attractive envelopes. Why, exactly? Doesn't the pregnant passenger just want the badge? Won't the envelope be quickly discarded?

Staff are being turned into leafleters for private companies.

How Many Private Companies Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb?

Tubeworker reeived a report from one of our driver contributors that a heavily-used depot signal was faulty for two days.

The relatively simple fault was that the signal had no white aspect likely due to a blown bulb. The rumour is that, as the signal was on the depot boundary, there was a disagreement between different engineering and maintenance contractors over whose job it was to fix it. So whilst the privateers battle out who needs to take a light bulb out of a box, numerous drivers have to apply extra procedures to enter the depot.

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A Lunch Fit for a Fat Cat

The latest expenses from TfL show an expense from Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy of £450 for a "working lunch".

Tubeworker isn’t suggesting the expense is improper; although we reckon we spend, at most, £5 a day on lunch or dinner whilst at work, so £450 would buy us meals for three months. And our meal break is unpaid, despite needing to eat to have the energy to get through the day and sell our labour back to the boss.

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Training in the Brave New World...

Word reaches Tubeworker HQ that the all-bells-and-whistles "Customer Service Training" that all station staff will be put through (subjected to?) during the course of 2015 is costing LU £4.2 million.

Yes, you read that right folks, our employer is paying a private, external company millions of pounds to train us in how to "let our personalities shine through" and "share what we know" (just two of the platitudes that make up the cringeworthy "Customer Value Proposition" of the Brave New World of Fit for the Future).

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