Central line

No cutting corners on familiarisation!

Published on: Wed, 04/03/2020 - 16:32

Station familiarisations, a legally-required procedure that everyone working on a station must undertake and which must be carried out by a resident CSS or CSM, are extremely important. CSAs on the Special Requirements Team (SRT) work across multiple stations, and are on average familiarised at 15-20 stations every six months so they can effectively respond and work at those stations.

Bank/Monument, a sprawling and entirely underground complex, has arguably the most complicated station footprint on the underground. It has numerous particular issues, specific to it as a station, not encountered elsewhere.

Two weeks ago, Customer Service Supervisors (CSSs) in the SRT had their duties suddenly changed and were instructed to go to Bank to be familiarised. They were then told that, the following day, they would be familiarising CSAs at Bank.

Reps were made aware and swiftly responded with obvious concerns. A CSS who does not work at a station should not be expected to familiarise other staff to work there. This should apply for any station, but especially one as complicated as Bank. If Bank's local CSSs and CSMs are so stretched that they are unable to familiarise staff there, the solution is to increase the staffing level at Bank, not offload familiarisation duties onto the SRT.

Clearly, the cuts made under Fit for the Future were too deep, to the point that staff do not have the resources to perform their duties. Prior to Fit for the Future, SRT staff were strictly required to have two full days of familiarisation at Bank before they could work there. Since Fit for the Future, this decline first to a single day, and now to just a few hours.

The system is failing Bank station on a safety level, and now it is affecting SRT, with this whole issue potentially spilling over to other stations if this procedure sets a precedent. To this end, it cannot be allowed to move forward and must be stopped.

But the issue does not end here. What this clearly highlights is an overall drop in recognition of the importance of familiarisations. A audit of station familiarisations should be strongly considered, with the amount of time spent on familiarisations looked at closely. All station staff have the right to a comprehensive familiarisation, not a corner-cutting walkaround after which a form is shoved in our hands which we're expected to sign. Once again, if there is not enough CSS and CSM time available to conduct full familiarisations, then quite simply we need more CSSs and CSMs.

If this issue isn't addressed, it could lead to a serious safety incident.

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No displacements on stations!

Published on: Fri, 31/01/2020 - 14:31

There’s a roster redesign underway at Bank... four new full-time CSA positions are being created.

Great! Or so you’d think... turns out local management plan to pay for this by deleting six positions from the part-time CSA establishment, three of which are vacant. As for the other three, the staff have been told they’ll be displaced! This is another case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Part-time staff shouldn’t be forced to move against their will. If their positions do end up being reorganised, they should stay on at their location over establishment.

Union reps are on the case and the displacements will he fought.

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Action ahead on the Central Line?

Published on: Tue, 10/12/2019 - 16:04

It's becoming an all-too familiar pattern on trains. Managers in depots get out of control, presiding over a culture of petty and arbitrary discipline, interpreting procedures and policies punitively and acting like tinpot authoritarians. RMT drivers ballot for industrial action to stop this culture, strikes are declared, negotiations take place at Acas, trains managers promise to wind their necks in, and strikes are suspended.

A few months later... the old problems have returned and we're back to square one.

This appears now to be the case on the Central Line, with drivers arguing that management have reneged on promises made at Acas.

Maybe the only way management will learn to change their ways for good is when they realise our strike ballots aren't just idle threats, but that we actually have the ability to stop the job.

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Fight to abolish the anti-union laws

Published on: Sat, 23/11/2019 - 16:28

Despite voting by a 98% majority for strikes, ABM cleaners will be prevented from taking legal industrial action by the Tories’ anti-union laws. Of 620 cleaners balloted, 294 voted for strikes. But because this only amounted to 48% of the total, the result fell short of the 50% turnout threshold required by the 2016 Trade Union Act.

A 98% majority on a 48% turnout would be seen as a legitimate, and indeed overwhelming, mandate in any other area of democratic. It is a far higher majority and turnout, for example, than the one which elected Sadiq Khan as Mayor of London in 2016. The Tories claimed their laws were necessary to ensure strikes had a sufficient level of support in the workplace, but if just 11 more cleaners had voted against the strike, RMT would be able to call action, despite the fact that this would have demonstrated a higher level of opposition rather than support.

There are lessons for the union to learn here. Although a vibrant and energetic campaign to mobilise turnout did take place, most of the work was undertaken by a core of activists. Resources were provided, but next time we must ensure that every branch officer, rep, and activist across the union makes the ballot a priority. We need to build a culture where reps for directly-employed staff such as station staff, drivers, fleet maintenance workers, and others, see organising and empowering cleaners in their workplaces as as much of a responsibility as recruiting and organising their own LU workmates.

Ultimately, however, while the result is bitterly disappointing, our anger and frustration should not be directed inwards, but towards the glaring injustice and affront to democracy that the anti-union laws represent. The cleaners’ ballot result follows swiftly on from the High Court decision to injunct (i.e., ban) a strike of Royal Mail workers, after bosses claimed their union, the CWU, had “interfered” with the ballot process (which sailed past the thresholds of the anti-union laws) by... actively campaigning and encouraging its members to vote yes! This shows that, even when unions meet the thresholds required by the 2016 Act, older laws imposed by Thatcher and Major, and never repealed by Blair or Brown in 13 years of Labour government, can still be used to obstruct workers’ action.

This is the very purpose of the laws: to weight the scales of power in the workplace as greatly as possible in favour of employers. Our bosses don’t have to ballot anyone to force through their cuts; they don’t have to clear any thresholds to sack our members. Invariably they act, or try to act, unilaterally. But when we want to fight back, endless hurdles are put in our way.

We have to combine efforts to meet ballot thresholds with a renewed campaign for the abolition of these unjust laws. We have a chance to take a huge step towards that on 12 December, by electing a Labour government committed to repealing anti-union laws. But we will need to fight to hold that government to account, and to push it to implement Labour conference policy, for the abolition of all anti-union laws, in full. The Free Our Unions campaign, supported by three national trade unions (RMT, IWGB, and FBU) and dozens of union branches and regions, including RMT London Transport Region, provides resources and a vital network to help us do this.

At some point, we will also need to collectively confront the possibility that the only way to overthrow such unjust laws may be to break them.

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Assaulted? Expect an LDI!

Published on: Thu, 07/11/2019 - 09:43

Central line staff have been shocked to be summoned to LDIs for absences that include assaults.

The policy on this is very clear - as is the basic human morality! If you are assaulted at work and need some time off sick, then you deserve support not punishment. It is a breach of the policy to even count this as an item, let alone to call an LDI and issue a warning. It is not good enough for management to say that a warning can be overturned at appeal, as the member of staff should not have to go through this in the first place.

To top it all, this is happening while management are trying to convince us how much they care about staff assaults.

This really is adding insult to injury.

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Go slow to stop track noise!

Published on: Thu, 26/09/2019 - 11:50

After the excellent ballot result on the Jubilee, Northern, Victoria, and Central Lines, RMT has named action starting on 10 October in its dispute to end excessive track noise.

Drivers will impose temporary speed restrictions in affected areas, lessening the effect of the noise forced into the driver’s cab and the train cars.

That’s the kind of go-slow we like to see. We’re less keen on the slowness of the union’s decision making process. This action should have been announced as soon as the ballot result came back. The delay only benefits the bosses.

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Noise ballot success

Published on: Tue, 10/09/2019 - 16:08

RMT Drivers on the Northern, Central, Victoria and Jubilee lines have returned a yes vote for action short of strike due to excessive track noise.

Tubeworker congratulates the workers who voted YES and bizarrely those who voted NO. Without them the ballot would not have made it over the ridiculous 50% threshold that the Trade Union Act imposes on unions.

Since the issue was first raised miraculously management say they have found an extra £10 million to "tackle the issue". Why they couldn't see problems with the Pandrol Vanguard system in the first place we don't know. Either way workers should not have to endure track noise any longer.

Tubeworker says the RMT should start the slow down in noisy sections immediately. Neither drivers of passengers should be suffering any longer. Station staff can use the opportunity to explain exactly why the service is being disrupted, and this kind of action will be very disruptive, lets use the opportunity to push the bosses back and put safety first.

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RMT suspends strikes on Vic and Central

Published on: Wed, 04/09/2019 - 13:48

RMT has suspended a drivers' strike planned for today on the Victoria and Central Lines.

The company has budged in talks at Acas, offering some concessions. On the Victoria Line, where issues related to overbearing managers pushing drivers around, the company has committed to a series of workshops to try to improve relations. As the dispute is still live, the union can go back to Acas, and potentially reinstate action, if things don't improve on the ground.

On the Central Line the concessions are slightly more concrete, with the company committing to maintain staffing levels at 20 above minimum numbers, which works out to 17 additional jobs. These should all be in place within a few months; with many of the problems on the line stemming from short-staffing, securing this concession is a real step forward, and one that would simply not have been gained without calling the strike.

Some caution is required, however. We've been here before, on the Piccadilly Line, when a strike last summer was suspended after bosses promised similar concessions, only to be reinstated in September when it became clear the company had little intention of implementing its agreement.

Clearly, the point of calling strikes isn't to have a strike, and lose money, for the sake of it, but to extract concessions from the management. If such concessions are extracted, there's a reasonable case for suspending planned action. But when we know from experience that LU has a somewhat casual attitude to actually abiding by its own agreements, we also need to consider whether it's necessary to remind bosses of our power to stop the job. In this instance, the union has decided to give the company the benefit of the doubt. If that proves to have been misjudged, new strike dates must be named, and followed through on.

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Drivers: vote yes for action over noise levels!

Published on: Tue, 27/08/2019 - 17:45

RMT is balloting all driver members, including Night Tube drivers, on the Jubilee, Central, Northern and Victoria lines, for industrial action against excessive noise levels, which have become intolerable.

The problem is caused by the "Pandrol Vanguard" system LU installed to reduce track noise for people living above and next to the tracks; fair enough, except the system has the effect of forcing the noise into the train itself, leading to thunderous levels of noise in the driver's cab (and, indeed, in the carriages).

LU wants to issue drivers with ear defenders, but RMT is rightly insisting on a long-term engineering fix to sort the problem out properly. As LU won't agree to impose speed restrictions over the affected sections of track, which would alleviate the problem, it is entirely right for drivers to ballot in order to take things into our own hands and impose the speed restrictions ourselves.

The ballot opened today, Tuesday 27 August, and closes on 10 September. Use your vote, vote yes for action!

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Strike dates adjusted on Victoria and Central lines

Published on: Thu, 22/08/2019 - 14:54

The dates for the Central and Victoria Line strikes have been adjusted to 3-4 September (20:00 to 20:00), after reps and activists argued that the initial dates (29-30 August) would be less impactful.

Although altering dates after initially announcing them can be a bit of a messy business, it seems like the new dates will be more effective.

It’s a good lesson in why meetings of rank-and-file reps and activists should be the forum for making these decisions in the first place.

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