Fixed-term contract CSAs: fight for your future!

Posted in Tubeworker's blog on Mon, 18/05/2015 - 21:47,

All new CSAs employed since the middle of last year have been taken on on fixed-term contracts - most for 12 months, some for 16, but some for less (nine or six).

These fixed-term posts were created unilaterally by LU without agreement from any union. They're a big setback; directly-employed work with LU has always been (relatively) stable and secure. Unions have argued for outsourced work such as cleaning and many engineering functions to be taken back in house precisely because insecurity, casualisation, and precariousness are much more common when work is contracted out.

But now we have "in-house" insecurity too. It's a little vision of what the company has in store for us in the future. If our bosses aren't pushed back, how long before relief CSAs on zero-hours contracts become a reality?

For young people in austerity Britain, even 12 months on a CSA's salary and free travel is a more appealing option than a lot of the rest of what's out there. Fixed-term contract CSAs can apply for other jobs within LU and TfL once their foot's in the door and they're through probation, so there's the tantalising possibility of something more long-term.

But the future is still profoundly uncertain. CSAs are wondering if they'll simply be let go, or if they might be offered new CSA2 posts, on £6,000 less than they're currently being paid.

Either outcome is insulting. LU has trained these workers to do a particular job at a particular rate of pay. To either ditch them once they've helped the company transition to a new staffing model, or slash their pay, is obscene. And if fixed-term CSAs are kept on as CSA2s, how long will it be before they're asked to casually "act up" and cover the work of absent CSA1s (for which they are, after all, licensed)? The company will effectively have a reserve army of CSA1s on the cheap.

So what can we do about it?

There's some understandable caution amongst some fixed-term CSAs about getting involved in unions, and participating in potential strikes, as they're worried it may affect their future. Tubeworker reminds all fixed-term CSAs that they have the same legal rights as permanent staff to join unions and participate in industrial action.

But it's not simply a legal question. It comes down to this: joining the union and getting involved in the fight against job cuts and casualisation won't guarantee you a secure job, and yes, it's not without its risks. But the alternative - doing nothing, keeping your head down, and relying on the benevolence of the company to see you through - is unthinkable. It means surrendering the only chance you have to even attempt to take control of your own destiny.

As the old saying goes - if you fight, you might not win. But if you don't fight, you'll surely lose.

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