Tubeworker's blog

Oblique Images, Obtuse Management Response

On crowded platforms, it can be hard for the train driver to see the "Platform Train Interface", particularly on a curved platform. This is what LUL calls an "oblique image" - where people on the platform block the driver's view of the PTI. We'd call it a blind spot.

There are dozens of these all over the Tube, posing a serious safety risk to passengers. Some of the worst locations have been given additional station staff support from the Special Requirements Team so CSAs on the platform can assist drivers. But this isn't a "special" requirement - it's a permanent one!

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Paul Okoro Reinstated!

A sustained union campaign, including a strike ballot amongst Piccadilly Line drivers, has secured the reinstatement of sacked worker Paul Okoro.

Paul was sacked for allegedly answering his phone while in the cab, even though witnesses attest that he handed over control of the train before doing so (for the background to his story, click here).

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Voluntary Severance and its Discontents

Hundreds of station staff have signed up to take voluntary severance (VS).

The VS scheme was one of the means by which LU claimed it was softening the blow of the "Fit for the Future" job cuts, arguing that, while nearly 1,000 jobs would be cut, at least no-one was actually being sacked. While technically true, and while voluntary redundancies are preferable to compulsory ones, many workers, faced with a regrading and displacement process none of us asked for, did feel like they were effectively being forced out of their jobs.

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32, not 36!

RMT has been polling its driver members in a referendum to see if they want union negotiators to discuss the possibility of amending the drivers' framework to facilitate the trial of a four-day, 36-hour week in two depots. The results are due back this week.

The trial would necessitate increasing the maximum time spent on the front of a train (currently 4 hours 15 minutes).

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Speak To Us Together, Or Not At All

London Underground's attempt to undermine collective bargaining, by launching what it laughably calls a "listening exercise", which promotes its latest offer on pay and conditions to staff on an individual basis, rather than through our unions, deserves to be treated with utter contempt.

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DLR Shut Down as Solid Strike Bites Back

Nothing is moving on the DLR this morning as workers hit back against their new employers' clampdown.

Pickets at Beckton and Poplar have kept the strike solid and cranked up the pressure on management to back off from their attacks on the workforce. Since taking over the contract, Keolis Amey Docklands (KAD) has stepped up disciplinary action against staff, casualised working conditions by using agencies, and risked safety by licensing managers to work in the control room.

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Fight for the right to strike!

Tubeworker supporters joined activists from across the labour movement for a day of protest at Parliament, opposing the Tories' Trade Union Bill.

An evening demonstration, organised by the Trade Union Coordinating Group, saw activists demand increased trade union freedoms, and commit to defying the new laws if they are passed. Further action is planned for 10 November, the day of the third reading of the Bill.

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A New Low

LU's obsession with profit and increasing private revenue streams on stations reached new lows this week as a self-service currency exchange machine was installed at King's Cross St. Pancras, effectively obscuring the 7/7 memorial plaque.

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Strikes on the horizon as Piccadilly Line drivers and DLR staff vote for action

Two RMT ballots which closed last week have delivered huge votes for strikes.

Picc Line drivers have voted by an 85% majority for strikes, and by an even higher margin for action short of strikes, in their dispute over the breakdown of industrial relations with local management, brought to a head by the unjust sacking of Paul Okoro.

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Can 5 Do The Work of 13?

Last month, Tubeworker reported on Interserve's plans to slash jobs across the network. As the contractor begins to implement those cuts, rumours are reaching Tubeworker HQ about the scale of some of them.

The night shift at Oxford Circus, for example, is set to be reduced by more than 50% - from 13, to just five.

Can five workers be realistically expected to do the work of 13? Is this physically possible? Is it safe?

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Four-Day, 36-Hour Week?

On trainside there has been an ongoing discussion about a voluntary 36-hour four-day week, on a trial basis at certain depots, with both Aslef and RMT negotiators seemingly in favour.

There is talk of giving up all sorts of agreements to reach this goal, though the mandate for that is very unclear. These discussions began with the fight for a pay rise, and the strikes fought to achieve protections to conditions when Night Tube was introduced. RMT's original claim was for a four-day, 32-hour week, for all grades, not a 36-hour week for one grade!

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Jubilee Line driver vindicated

Tubeworker was pleased to hear that a Jubilee Line driver who faced the sack is now back on the front of a train.

The driver was accused of reading a paper in his cab - something he has consistently said he did not do. His colleagues support him.

Because he is a member of a fighting union, he got the solidarity he needed to save his job. It is essential that all transport workers join a union - and get involved to make their union better.

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Why give our 'Viewpoint' if our bosses won't listen?

Five days before the deadline, TfL reported that only 29% of employees had filled out 'Viewpoint', TfL's staff survey.

The survey has the subheading 'Your Opinion Matters' but one reason for the low response rate must be that most of us have realised that TfL and LUL do not really care what we think.

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A Penny... or 800 Jobs?

"Penny for London" is a charity scheme which adds 1p to each journey made on TfL and the money is then split between London charities. Tubeworker recognises the good work charities do.

However, a better way to redistribute money is to tax the wealthy. Then the government can distribute this money, and we have democratic control over where it goes - rather than it being a commuter-funded PR exercise for Boris Johnson and TfL.

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4% pay rise on JNP, fourth strike on DLR

Tubeworker is pleased to hear that ISS cleaners on JNP have been given a 4% pay rise taking pay from £8.80 to £9.15.

The cleaners' union had asked for a substantial pay rise; and this offer will be discussed at a reps meeting - to which all cleaners should go and have their voice heard. It’s a positive step but there is still much for cleaners to fight for: even better pay, stronger terms and conditions and decent pensions.All transport workers must back that fight.

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Carry On Protesting!

Cleaning contractor Interserve looks set to move some or all of its office operations out of London, maybe to Manchester.

This is yet another cost-cutting measure from a cleaning company that tries to extract the maximum from its multi-million pound contract with London Underground. It will make it harder for cleaners to resolve and protest against issues, such short payment (where cleaners are not paid for all the hours they work).

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Protest Staff Shortage, Not Lost Revenue!

Labour London Assembly members have revealed that some stations' ticket gates have been open 60% of the time because there were too few staff to monitor the gateline.

Labour was concerned this is costing £61 million in lost ticket revenue: Labour should protest open gates as proof of too few staff, not too much fare evasion!

It would be better for Labour to campaign for a free, fully-staffed Tube network, which is funded by taxing the rich instead of fares.

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Shortage of Trains

The Central Line has a 'shortage of trains'. Most days, customers are having to wait ages for trains that arrive already packed with passengers. LU's explanation for the missing trains is that the motors are failing 'at a higher rate than was expected', which means that fleet engineers are having to work 'day and night' to fix the problem. But even LU admits that there is 'no quick fix' and that 'we are likely to see a shortage of trains for some weeks to come'.

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If LU isn't listening, we have to make ourselves impossible to ignore.

Union reps on stations are currently busy conducting another "roster consultation" process. We went through this once already in the spring; LU released absolutely nightmarish draft rosters, which involved drastic reductions in weekends off for almost all of us, a big increase in lone working, "cover weeks" (when we'll have no notice of duties or rest days), and of course a big reduction in staffing levels.

Our strikes over the summer forced the company to bin the rosters and start again. (There's a lesson in that.)

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Making A Pig's Ear Of Our Shoes (LU's "Piggate"?)

With the long-awaited (!) roll-out of the new uniform now nearly upon us, Tubeworker learns that the shoes contain elements made of pig skin, meaning that observant Muslim and Jewish staff may not be able to wear them. Apparently they'll be issued with vouchers from their local management to buy alternatives.

Sounds like yet another gaffe in a process none of us asked for.

(And let's not mention David Cameron...)

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Let Us Breathe!

An ISS cleaner has contracted a serious illness, which union health and safety reps believe may be linked to the cleaning chemicals they use. They are demanding workers be issued with proper respirator masks rather than the particle masks they are currently given.

To add insult to (serious) injury, ISS are only paying the work Statutory Sick Pay of £90, despite their critical condition.

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Contractors Pass The Buck On Uniform

Tubeworker previously reported on cleaners' disatsifaction at having to wear canary yellow uniforms, which many of us feel will make us a target for lairy passengers, especially when Night Tube comes in.

ISS and TubeLines are passing the buck between each other, with neither being able to decide who's actually responsible for the uniform. Sounds like a simple solution would be to take the cleaning back in house...

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Fixed-Term Victory

LU has finally committed in writing that any CSA working on a fixed-term contract on 21 August or before will be retained on a permanent basis at their existing grade. They've also said that, from February 2016, they will cease to recruit fixed-termers.

This is obviously a big win for us, which we should follow up by keeping the pressure on to ensure that everyone employed between 21 August and February 2016 gets kept on too!

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W&C Service Controllers Strike Back

Waterloo and City line service controllers will strike for 48 hours next week in their fight to have their job uprated.

W&C controllers are paid less than every other service controller on the job - they have a grade all to themselves so that the company can pay them five grand less than others. They are even paid less than some signal operators.

This is despite the fact that their job includes signal operations, line control and line information, and despite new equipment being installed in their control room.

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District Line: Spiralling Costs And Severe Delays

Tubeworker hears that LU is storing shiny new District S Stock trains in a shed in Derbyshire because work to extend the depots for the new fleet has overrun. Ealing Common depot should have been ready within three years; but it’s been three years and the work is still only half finished Tubeworker wonders how much LU is spending to keep these expensive trains off the road!

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Reinstate Paul Okoro!

Piccadilly Line driver Paul Okoro has been sacked because he answered his phone in a stationary train in the depot. He secured his train and left the cab before doing so.

His workmates are preparing to ballot, and his union (RMT) has been building the campaign, with local activists putting out regular propaganda.

Tubeworker is amazed at management's decision to sack Paul. The way management has treated him is a risk to all Tube workers, because if the bosses are allowed to do it to one of us, they could do it to any of us.

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