Engineering and fleet


Published on: Sat, 11/03/2017 - 12:49

Yesterday morning saw the Central line service up the wall after an engineering train derailed as it crossed the points on the way into a siding at White City around the time of start of traffic.

Over-stretched and short-handed station staff - still not feeling the full benefit of their recent victory over staff cuts - had to deal with grumpy passengers for most of the day, while drivers had to deal with late running and changes to schedules.

Investigations are of course underway. As usual, these will probably look for an individual to blame, but even if the immediate cause is human error, humans make errors in the conditions in which they are made to work.

Engineering hours protection was privatised years ago, and private contractors always look for ways to cut cost, even if that means giving their staff too many responsibilities and distractions. And the organisation of the railway is so fragmented that it will be harder for the investigation to get to the root cause. With a variety of different companies involved, each will be trying to prove that it was another one's fault.

It is only by having an integrated, publicly-owned Underground that we can assess incidents like this honestly, with the sole motive being improving service and safety, not passing the blame in order to pass the bill.

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Fleet workers vote for strikes

Published on: Mon, 27/02/2017 - 11:40

Back in January, we reported on an imminent ballot on Fleet, in a dispute over a range of issues, including job cuts.

The ballot has now concluded, returning a 68% majority for strikes and an 89% majority for action-short-of-strikes.

Hopefully RMT will crack on and get strike dates named, ideally coordinating them with other ongoing disputes across the job, including the Central Line drivers' fight against forced displacements.

With Night Tube forming part of the background to this dispute (specifically, LU's failure to honour an agreement to staff up in order to cover additional work), the potential is emerging for a combine-wide dispute over Night Tube, involving drivers and station staff, who are rightly aggrieved at having opportunities to transfer into full-time positions blocked, and fleet staff. Why not ballot Interserve and ISS cleaners, and other contractors working nights, on their issues too, and make it an across-the-job dispute against the exploitation of Night Tube staff?

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Solid ETO Action Brings Win Closer

Published on: Fri, 17/02/2017 - 20:29

As Engineering Train Operators remain solid in their dispute with Tube Lines, union negotiators are close to reaching a satisfactory settlement. While the 6.3% pay rise has been agreed, management want to hold half of it back until after productivity improvements have been put in place.

Some of their changes are OK, but our right to a pay rise can not be dependant on management getting their way.

Tubeworker topics

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ETO Strike Solid

Published on: Sun, 05/02/2017 - 11:24

Engineering Train Operators are out on strike this weekend after management introduced job cuts into talks about restructuring and pay - and further action is planned.

For around nine months, talks have been taking place between Tube Lines, RMT and ASLEF about new Engineering Train Operator grades and pay rates, which are supposed to be in place by 1 March. Just when the unions thought they were on the home straight to reaching an agreement, management rolled a grenade into the room: they want to make redundancies to fund the pay rise - despite the unions having already agreed to various productivity measures.

The ETOs and both unions have responded in the most effective way possible: a solid strike with more to follow. Tube Lines management can be in no doubt that they will not get willing agreement to sell jobs for pay.

Every job matters.

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Broken Rails

Published on: Thu, 26/01/2017 - 13:15

Victoria line rails broke clean through twice in the space of three days last week. Given that this usually happens only once a month across the whole network, you'd think it would set the alarm bells ringing.

It has certainly set management's excuse-mongering machine rolling.

While telling us that they don't yet have a full report, management seem happy to suggest that the problem was caused during welding or installation. Without actually using the word 'conicidence', management imply it by stating that the two incidents do not have the same root cause.

And they reassure us that "The frequency of inspections was not changed as a result of the introduction of Night Tube." Well perhaps it should have been! Management seem to think that we should be relieved that inspections have been cut, but it is surely remiss that they were not increased given the extra wear on the rails as a result of Night Tube.

This is particularly problematic on an auto-operated line where rails get more stressed because all the trains drive, brake etc to exactly the same pattern, causing repeated stress at particular points.

Not a problem for management though - according to them, it's OK because the Pimlico track had been checked four days before the rail fractures, and ultrasonic checks are carried out every 28 days!

It's not just the rail that is broken.

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Tube Lines pay and pensions win

Published on: Fri, 11/11/2016 - 12:54

Tube Lines staff have won their long fight for pensions and pay parity with other LU workers. A long-running union campaign has secured equal access to the TfL Pension Fund for all existing and future Tube Lines staff, as well as a pay uplift at the same level secured across the rest of LU.

The disparity between Tube Lines workers and other LU workers was a legacy of the disastrous Public Private Partnership (PPP), a failed experiment in outsourcing and privatisation. Union members in Tube Lines never gave up their fight for reintegration and equality, a fight in which they have now won significant victories.

Their example should inspire other outsourced workers to step up their fight for equality.

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Bring It All In House!

Published on: Thu, 25/08/2016 - 21:07

The full reintegration of former "TubeLines" engineering maintenance work on the Jubilee, Northern, and Piccadilly Lines into LUL represents the culmination of a years-long union campaign to bring outsourced work back in house. Their continued outsourcing was a legacy of the disastrous "Public Private Partnership".

It is a testament to the resolve of members and reps in those depots who stood firm through a number of disputes and never abandoned the aspiration to fully reverse the privatisation.

It shows that, despite their apparent obsession with outsourcing everything that moves, LUL can sometimes be pushed to reverse outsourcing and reintegrate. With possible strikes ahead against outsourcing on fleet, and cleaning contracts up in the air due to LUL's plans to consolidate them into a single "super contract" next year, unions should press their advantage and go on the offensive to demand an end to outsourcing.

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Defending Agreements on Fleet

Published on: Mon, 13/06/2016 - 16:24

RMT members on Fleet are gearing up for a battle to defend their working agreements, which LU are trying to erode. RMT has declared an official dispute, and is preparing a ballot for industrial action.

LU has outsourced the airbag replacement programme on the S-Stock to external contractors Bombardier and JMac, in a clear breach of the "Core Work Agreement", which sets limits on the amount and types of work that can be done by contractors. LU are now playing fast and loose with its definitions, saying it now believes all warranty work - i.e., practically anything at all! - can be done by Bombardier staff. LU has also failed to honour an agreement to take S-Stock shoe gear inspections, which were carried out by Bombardier staff on a trial basis, back in house if the trial inspections failed to resolve the issue.

As ever, our attitude should be: sack the agencies, not the workers! We want all work on LU - whether that's inspections or maintenance on Fleet, or cleaning on stations, or anything else - to be done by directly-employed, properly-trained LU staff.

LU's attempts to casualise, outsource, and de-skill the job on Fleet mirror similar attempts elsewhere. On stations, cleaning has long been outsourced, and ticketing work has also now been effectively de-skilled (CSAs, paid £30k and given just a few days' training, are now doing work previously done by SAMFs, paid £36k and with weeks of training).

Tube workers in all other functions and areas should stand shoulder to shoulder with our colleagues on Fleet in their fight to defend agreements and direct employment!

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Wot No Sidings?

Published on: Fri, 03/06/2016 - 10:12

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.

The impact of this will be that trains needing to go into sidings (for example if they develop a defect) will have to continue to Marble Arch or White City westbound or Liverpool Street eastbound. A moment's thought will tell you what the potential impact is on the service and on congestion at those sidings/stations.

Oh, and management didn't bother consulting our unions about this. Reps found out by reading it in the Traffic Circular!

Penny-pinching before safety and service? Surely not.

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Tube Lines strike ballot rains on Night Tube parade?

Published on: Tue, 24/05/2016 - 16:15

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.

Our unions, rightly in our view, support 24-hour running, but insist that it must not be imposed over workers' heads but introduced safely and on a basis that addresses our concerns. Without us - cleaners, drivers, station staff, maintenance and engineering workers, signallers, service controllers, and others - there is no Night Tube. We won't suspend our struggles so Night Tube can be rushed in.

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