LT Equalities

Bucking the trend?

Submitted by Tubeworker on Mon, 25/03/2019 - 21:28

Around International Women's Day, 8th March, LUL's intranet and company magazine, On the Move, featured women who are 'bucking the trend' by working in male-dominated roles - technical officer, service control manager, track maintenance.

But why are women still a minority in LUL when we are 51% of London's population?

In 2016, TfL commissioner, Mike Brown set TfL the target of reflecting the capital's own diversity by 2020. It is failing miserably. In the most recent stats available (2017), women were 23.4% of TfL's workforce and only 17.1% at LUL - 15.6% in operational grades. The percentage of women at LUL, particularly in operational grades, has fallen since 2016 - perhaps as women have been squeezed out during Fit for the Future.

When they are released, we expect TfL's 2019 figures to be even more damning because they will show the impact of TfL's Transformation program, which cut jobs in traditionally female-dominated areas, such as administration.

That women are such a minority in an organisation that boasts of diversity speaks of a deeply sexist culture and a discriminatory work environment that concedes too little to our caring and life commitments outside work.

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More Than Glossy Mags Needed

Submitted by Tubeworker on Sat, 10/02/2018 - 17:44

Another month, another edition of On The Move prominently featuring mental health issues. We're glad LU is giving a platform to discussions about mental health, but words are not enough. Often, the message doesn't seem to filtering down to the shop floor.

Almost all union reps, and far too many members, will have had direct experience of being involved in case conferences or other attendance-related meetings where the manager's attitude to mental health amounts to a thinly veiled "pull yourself together". All too common are demands for fixed time-frames for being able to return to full duties when we've been off with a mental health related issue, as if we can say, "yes, I'll be cured of depression or anxiety in two weeks."

Within an increasingly corporate culture based on austerity budgets, our employer sees us as numbers on spreadsheet to make sure stations stay open, trains are driven, projects are worked on, and targets are hit. As much as it likes to claim it's taking a sensitive and constructive attitude to mental health, actually giving us the time and support we need to manage our mental health problems is all too often sacrificed on the altar of "business needs".

And this is to say nothing of the wider reality that the general way in which many managers treat their staff is itself a factor in damaging our mental health, leading to wider problems.

We'll be more inclined to take the On The Move articles seriously when we see this culture changing on the ground.

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Organise against sexual harassment at work!

Submitted by Tubeworker on Mon, 20/11/2017 - 11:52

Sexual harassment affects huge numbers of women workers, including on LU. We must organise to stop it.

What is sexual harassment?

In law it is “unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”.

This ranges from jokes about a person’s body to inappropriate touching to propositions for sex. Some people are unaware that their behaviour could be classed as sexual harassment; you might think, “it was only a joke” or, “I was just paying a compliment”. But just because you didn’t intend to sexually harass someone doesn’t mean that you didn’t. The “effect” on the recipient matters. It’s about how it feels on the receiving end (see image).

Is it just women who experience sexual harassment?

Harassment in the Workplace” report states that in Europe women are three times more likely than men to experience sexual harassment and that perpetrators are overwhelmingly male.

Sexual harassment is a product and a part of this sexist society in which women have not yet won equality at work, at home, in popular culture and almost every strand of life.

Is it just about men vs. women?

No, it’s also about power. Sexual harassment happens when power hierarchies in the workplace mix with the power imbalance between men men and women in society.

Men often have power over women at work. MPs and celebrities have recently been exposed for using their power and influence to act inappropriately to subordinates.

In our industry, managers and supervisors are often male. We also work in a male-dominated environment, which gives men a kind of “strength in numbers” and a power to use sexual harassment to make women feel very unwelcome in our workplaces.

If no-one’s talking about it, then we’ve not got a problem in our workplace, right?

Wrong! Sexual harassment is widespread but rarely reported and talked about.

According to the 2016 TUC report, 4 out of 5 women polled did not report sexual harassment to their employer and only 1% reported it to their union rep.

As you see from the picture, there are so many reasons not to talk about it. Sexual harassment is confusing, intimidating, isolating.

You feel you’re making a big deal out of nothing. If we look at where we work, how many of us can honestly say that they’ve never been witness to sexual banter?

Just because no one objected publicly doesn’t mean it was OK.

What do we do about it?

DON’T DO IT! You might think you know someone really well and that you have a relationship where “banter” is acceptable. But how can you know what that person is really feeling? If the person on the receiving end doesn’t object, they might be unwilling to be confrontational while feeling very uncomfortable at the same time.

Even if the individual you’re talking to feels OK, what kind of message does it send to other women who work with you if these kinds of comments are commonplace?

CAMPAIGN! Our unions need to campaign. Every workplace needs a poster with a clear message: sexual harassment is not welcome here! Serious campaigns from our unions could encourage us to challenge our ideas and shift workplace cultures in which sexual banter is seen as acceptable.

BELIEVE WOMEN! There is a stereotype of women making false allegations of sexual harassment to ruin men's reputations. This stereotype clouds judgement.

For every false allegation there are countless women suffering in silence for fear of not being believed. When an allegation is made, management and unions should proceed on the basis that the allegation is genuine.

Sexual harassment often occurs in a one-on-one setting, so it’s often “his word against hers”. A woman may not have witnesses or hard evidence but that doesn’t mean that she is lying!

SUPPORT WOMEN! Our unions need to support women who want to make complaints of sexual harassment.
This includes: providing a trained, impartial person to talk to in confidence; listening to the outcome that the complainant wants; arranging legal support. Tubeworker supporters are working on getting RMT to draw up best practice guidelines for supporting sexual harassment cases.

Sexual harassment is intimidating and isolating: unions need to be clear that you do not have to suffer it on your own.


Cleaning workers

Sexual harassment is rife amongst the cleaning grade.

The TUC survey found that women without permanent contracts were more likely to experience sexual harassment and that there was a correlation between harassment and casualisation with women on irregular or precarious contracts more susceptible.

Contracted-out, often agency cleaners are very vulnerable to sexual harassment from supervisors and managers who are often men. With insecure employment, women fear speaking up in case they lose their jobs.

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In the Sexism Club?

Submitted by Tubeworker on Thu, 13/04/2017 - 11:25

LUL managers appear to think they are in the TV series 'Life on Mars' as they have woken up in the 1970s (or even earlier) and banned pregnant women from driving trains. They have thrown a particular woman - Kyria Pohl - off her Train Operator training course, and stated that yes, this is because they will no longer allow pregnant women to be in training or to drive a train.

Note to management: PREGNANCY IS NOT AN ILLNESS. Moreover, every pregnancy is different, and while some women may need to avoid particular work tasks while they are expecting, many do not. It is not management's job to treat women staff as though they are fragile and/or incapable: it is to protect their safety and respect their rights. Instead, the company seems determine to deny pregnancy women their dignity and rights - and in the case of trainees such as Kyria, their income as well: being kicked of the course means not getting T/Op training rates of pay, then full rates once passed out.

Fortunately for Kyria, she has a strong and effective union rep at her side, and RMT lawyers are already looking at this case. After all, it is unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of pregnancy.

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Go, Look, Sexism

Submitted by Tubeworker on Wed, 08/02/2017 - 10:09

A set of Bostwick gates at Victoria is dragging rather more than it ought to, so management have come up with an ingenious solution - women staff are not to handle the gates.

Yes, you read that right. In the sort of blatant, in-your-face sexism that is rarely seen these days (not because there is little sexism, but because it is usually less blatant), a 'Go Look See' visit has come up with this pitiful response.

Tubeworker reminds management that if it's not safe for women to handle the gates, then it's not safe for men to handle them either. Fix the gates. And fix the sexism.

Get Sick, Get Sacked?

Submitted by Tubeworker on Mon, 21/03/2016 - 14:52

Two recent cases of what might well amount to disability discrimination have shed further light on how LU treats its staff.

Two workers "failed" their probations, both due to attendance issues related to serious physical conditions. (Read more here.)

Behind empty phrases about its "duty of care" and commitment to equal opportunities, the fact is that LU treats sickness punitively. It punishes us for getting ill.

It doesn't matter whether we have doctors' notes to certify that the sickness is legitimate; it doesn't matter if the sickness is directly related by the deleterious health impacts of working extreme shifts in a dirty, industrial environment. Apart from a few selectively-interpreted exemptions, LU's attitude is that if you get sick, that's a disciplinary matter. Union reps do their best to get people reduced warnings, but many managers interpret the attendance policy as basically automatic: if you "breach" the "satisfactory standard" (missing more than one shift in any six-month period), you risk a six-month warning. Two more sick days in those next six months, it could be a one-year warning. Go sick again and your job's on the line.

Think about that policy again for a minute: if you get sick for more than four days over the course of an entire year, your job could be in jeopardy. In what sense is that fair or reasonable?

Some managers presumably think they need to threat of disciplinary action to act as a deterrent. But in fact, the policy encourages absenteeism. It only takes two sick days to "trigger" the attendance policy; if we know we're likely to be disciplined anyway, why not take more time off?

Our jobs make us sick. It's undeniable. We work in dirty environments, breathing in polluted air. Many of us spend hours on our feet. Some of us work manually, with heavy equipment, risking injury. We work shifts that mess up our sleeping and eating patterns. It's inevitable that we're going to get sick. Our employer should support us, not discipline us.

No-one should be punished for being ill. No-one should feel like they have to drag themselves to work when they're unwell, possibly making themselves worse, because they're worried about being disciplined for calling in sick.

"Crime" down but assaults are up

Submitted by Tubeworker on Thu, 20/08/2015 - 08:53

LU's employee communications have implied we should feel grateful that it is bothering to get extra police for Night Tube at a time when "crime on LU is at an all-time low".

LU is on another planet! "Low crime" is no comfort when assaults on Tube staff have increased by 44% and sexual assaults on passengers have risen by over 30% in the last year.

LU cannot continue to dismiss our concerns for personal and passenger safety surrounding Night Tube.

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STOP PRESS: LU sacks worker for having a disability. Reinstate Karen Guyott now!

Submitted by Tubeworker on Wed, 25/02/2015 - 14:03

London Underground has "medically terminated" (i.e., sacked) a disabled worker... for having a disability.

Karen Guyott worked as a Customer Service Assistant on Jubilee Line stations. She has epilepsy, but with "reasonable adjustments" was perfectly able to perform her role. The adjustments included restricting Karen from working on live tracks: CSAs never work on live tracks anyway. Her stations have "Platform Edge Doors", which restrict access to the track anyway. Karen was also restricted from working in machine chambers: CSAs never work in machine chambers anyway. So, in other words, her disability only "restricted" her from duties that were not part of her grade's job. There's been no issue for five years.

But LU has suddenly decided that Karen's situation is "unsustainable", and she has been sacked. This is clear discrimination against a worker for having a medical condition.

In October, RMT called off planned strikes because the union secured a promise from the company that any medically-restricted staff affected by upcoming "Fit for the Future" changes would be protected. But LU have used a questionnaire that Karen (along with all other staff) had to fill out as part of the "Fit for the Future" "location preferencing" process as part of their "evidence" for sacking her.

In an obscene twist, LU bosses were doing press work just one day before sacking Karen, puffing themselves up as an ethical employer helping make disability discrimination a thing of the past. One day later, they're helping keep it very much alive.

The company has always said that "Fit for the Future" wouldn't lead to currently-employed workers losing their jobs, and that the planned reduction in the staffing level would be managed through voluntary severance and relocation. That claim has been exposed as nonsense; they have used the "Fit for the Future" process to discriminate against and sack a disabled member of staff.

To win reinstatement for Karen, and for other unfairly sacked colleagues like Noel Roberts and Alex McGuigan, and to slam the brakes on the "Fit for the Future" jobs massacre, we need more strikes as soon as possible.

How cuts will hit diversity and equality

Submitted by Tubeworker on Tue, 27/05/2014 - 13:46

LU makes much of its reputation as an employer which promotes “diversity” and “equality”. But its real record is poor, and “Fit for the Future – Stations” job cuts look set to undo any advances made during the last decade.

Cuts will adversely affect every stations worker. But workers already facing inequality, such as women, black and ethnic minority, and disabled workers, will face particular negative consequences. Cuts will damage LU’s diversity. We must make sure we expose the truth about its record as an employer, and fight these cuts, which will lead to greater inequality.

Here is Tubeworker's guide to how the cuts will hit different groups of workers. This text can also be downloaded as an A3 poster by clicking here.


Women workers

London’s population is over 50% female, but on LU, we’re only 16%! This stems from:
• Sexist tradition: the railway seen as a “man’s job”.
• LU’s failure to accommodate shift work around childcare, which women still predominantly do. Unlike our shifts, childcare is not available 24/7. But LU often makes arguments along the lines of: “your child is not our problem”, or “you signed up for shift work” as a get-out to avoid helping.

Compare the number of women in full-time to part-time jobs. 59% of part-time station supervisors are women, in contrast to a meagre 15% full-time. 100% of part-time Duty Station Managers are female compared to 27% full-time. This shows a higher representation of women is possible where shifts fit round childcare, although forcing women to take a pay cut to part-time increases pay inequality.

LU's plans:

• Abolish approx.80% of part time jobs, which women predominantly occupy.
• Abolish the grade with the highest female representation, ticket seller (28% women). To maintain salary ticket sellers will have to work nights as a “Customer Service Supervisor 2”.
• Will force huge displacements, which will impact on people with caring responsibilities.
• Introduce less family-friendly rosters with fewer weekends off and night work for more grades.

Equality for women will deteriorate, when it’s long overdue an improvement.


Black and Ethnic Minority (BEM) workers

• The proportion of LU’s workers who are BEM (29.4%) is smaller than the proportion of BEM Londoners (40+%). On stations, BEM staff comprise 39.2% of staff.
• Over the past three years, there has been a decrease in the proportion of BEM staff across TfL.
• On LU, there is a shocking contrast between the number of BEM job applicants and the number recruited — 44.2% BEM applicants, but only 28.9% appointed in 2012/13. A similarly low number of BEM staff achieve promotion (32% in 2012/13).

LU’s plans:

• Abolish the stations grade with the highest concentration of BEM workers (SAMF).
• Reduce jobs and therefore promotion opportunities. LU’s figures for recent promotion of BEM candidates do not inspire us with hope.


Disabled workers

16% of working age Londoners identify as having a disability, yet LU classifies only 1.88% of staff (and 2.9% of station staff) as “disabled”. This stems from:
• The abolition of positions for medically-restricted staff in the past.
• The “redeployment” process, which too often pushes staff with long term medical problems out of employment.
• Job cuts. LU’s last major reorganisation, the OSP in 2010, reduced the percentage of disabled staff in LU. Job cuts lead to less diversity.

The percentage of disabled staff achieving promotion has been lower than the percentage of disabled staff employed by LU over the last three years, indicating itis harder for disabled staff to get promoted.

LU's plans:

• Abolish many “seated roles”, such as ticket seller and replace them with supervisor jobs requiring greater mobility.
• LU refuses to guarantee that staff with medical restrictions or reasonable adjustments will be accommodated if they cannot meet the requirements of their new role
• LU has said it will pay “voluntary severance” to staff it will not accommodate, but how is the severance “voluntary” if the company is failing to accommodate them? This is effectively forcing disabled staff out of the door.

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LU's equality and inclusion hypocrisy

Submitted by Tubeworker on Mon, 21/04/2014 - 21:22

LU promotes inclusion, equality, and diversity in its training and every promotional interview. Good. No worker benefits from working for an employer that fosters prejudice amongst its workforce. But when it comes to putting its money where its mouth is, LU's record isn't so great.

Women make up just 18% of LU's workforce. This is partly because the sexist idea that the railway is "men's work" hasn't gone away. But it seems a lack of flexibility towards people with caring responsibilities (usually women, because age-old gender roles mean women still do the majority of caring) also pushes women out of the workforce. Full-time shifts demand us to be available for work about 21 hours a day, seven days a week, 364 days a year. LU does not like to be flexible: "Your family life is not LU's responsibility" is a line many of us have heard. This, in part, explains why women make up only 27% of full-time CSAs, 28% of full-time SAMFs and just 15% of full-time supervisors.

But women are much better represented in part-time jobs, where fewer hours and a more fixed working pattern makes it easier to manage childcare. 46% of part-time CSAs, 53% of part-time SAMFs and 59% of part-time supervisors are women. This indicates the kind of diversity LU could achieve in its full-time grades if it was prepared to fund enough staff to afford more flexibility. Instead, it's cheaper to force women into part-time work or out of the workforce altogether.

The "Fit for the Future — Stations" cuts will also force disabled workers out of the workforce, which is particularly devastating at a time when the Tory government is attacking disability benefit. Ticket sellers and SCRAs with mobility issues that prevent them from standing on the gateline or platform for hours on end could suddenly be required to work alone on a station in roles demanding more mobility. LU has refused to guarantee that people will be accommodated with "reasonable adjustments" because it wants to run the job with nearly 1,000 fewer people, so it needs us all to be fit and super mobile. It won't commit to accommodate us all because that would mean spending money so extra staff could allow a bit of flexibility. Instead, LU has said it will pay VS to disabled workers who cannot be accommodated... basically forcing us out of work.

LU pays lip service to inclusion until it costs them money. Then it is happy to exclude us. This is why we need strong union organisation of women, disabled workers, and every group that faces discrimination.

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