Disputes

Bakerloo station staff to strike

Submitted by Tubeworker on Thu, 13/12/2018 - 18:01

Station staff on the Bakerloo Line South Cover Group (Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, Charing Cross, Lambeth North, and Elephant and Castle) will strike on 26 December and 14 January, fighting back against short staffing.

The issues in the dispute are clear. Anyone who works at an even moderately busy station knows that staffing levels are already too low, and LU’s current culture of cost cutting means that when people are off sick or there are unfilled vacancies, those duties often go uncovered as the company doesn’t want to cough up for the overtime.

Tubeworker is no fan of overtime; we think there should be enough staff to cover the duties without it. But covering duties on OT is preferable to leaving them uncovered.

One or two duties uncovered in a day may not sound like much, but that translates to two people being on a gateline when there should be three, or one when there should be two. If you’re that one person... you feel it.

At Oxford Circus in particular, management have used a “traffic light” system, whereby duties are designated “green” or “amber” and therefore considered less important to cover than “red” duties. This sets an alarming precedent; if we allow the company to get away with designating certain duties as optional extras rather than must-haves, we open the door to those jobs being cut altogether.

The demands of the strikes are simple: LU must cover the duties, and conduct a review of the underlying staffing level where unions can make a case for additional jobs.

The ballot for the strikes saw a 88% vote for action on a 66% turnout, easily clearing the double-threshold of the Tory anti-union laws. The local reps and activists ran a confident, well-organised campaign to get the vote out, and it worked. A clear message about the strength of feeling in the workplace has been sent to the company.

There’s been some debate inside RMT about the merits of calling a strike on Boxing Day. Tubeworker agrees there are pitfalls; in general we think it’s better to strike when business and The City is up and running to maximise our economic impact. There is a risk that striking on Boxing Day could be misinterpreted as aiming to affect the wrong people (i.e., ordinary folk traveling to see friends and family after Christmas).

But there is also a logic to striking on this day. The threat of disruption to the Boxing Day sales at the big stores on Oxford Street and Regent Street gives the strike a potential economic leverage. Crucially, on Boxing Day it will also be much harder for LU to ship in managers in pink hi-vis (aka “Ambassadors”) to keep the station open. And ultimately, station closures, or the threat of them, is our primary form of leverage on the job.

It’s important, though, that a second strike, on a “business day” was also named. Naming the 14 January strike lets the company know that this isn’t just about making a token protest. It also means that, should LU make an acceptable offer prior to Boxing Day, the prospect of the 14 January strike acts as pressure to stop them reneging.

As of now, the ball is in the bosses’ court. Either they give concrete guarantees to scrap their “traffic light” system and commit to covering duties and reviewing the staffing level, or we will strike on 26 December.

Union declares victory in “battle of Baker Street”

Submitted by Tubeworker on Sun, 09/12/2018 - 22:33

RMT has declared victory in “the battle of Baker Street”, after London Underground reinstated an unjustly sacked CSA, and trumped-up disciplinary charges against a CSS were dropped.

LU were forced to back down after 41 out of 61 workers balloted at the station voted for strikes (on a turnout of 45). This showed a clear strength of feeling at the station and made certain that any strikes would have a serious impact.

Local reps and activists say this is the first battle in an ongoing fight against a culture of management bullying.

Central Line drivers to strike again

Submitted by Tubeworker on Wed, 21/11/2018 - 14:31

Central Line drivers will strike again over 21-22 December, to demand the reinstatement of unjustly sacked colleague Paul Bailey.

Paul was sacked after passing a random drugs test; although he registered for the presence of cannabinoid substances, due to taking hemp supplements, he was within the “cut off limit” of 50ng/ml.

RMT rightly says Paul’s sacking “undermines the integrity of London Underground’s entire drugs and alcohol testing regime.” Management seems to be worried they might be right; they recently issued guidance to staff not to take hemp supplements, even though they are entirely legal and sold on the high street.

The strike doubles up as further action in RMT’s dispute against what it calls a “breakdown in industrial relations” on the line. Translated out of union jargon, this means that drivers are justifiably fed up with being pushed around by bullying bosses, who maintain an increasingly authoritarian culture.

The 21-22 December strike will involve Night Tube drivers on the Central Line, only the second time Night Tube workers have taken industrial action since the service was launched.

The strike is likely to have a huge impact, on what is normally the busiest pre-Christmas shopping weekend of the year. But there’s every possibility one more push won’t be enough. RMT is rightly looking to convene an assembly of driver reps and activists to map out an ongoing strategy for the dispute. A plan needs to be put in place for sustained and escalating action if management don’t back down.

See you on the picket lines!

Tubeworker topics

Central shutdown

Submitted by Tubeworker on Wed, 07/11/2018 - 15:44

Strikes by RMT and Aslef drivers on the Central Line (the Leytonstone depot of which also provides drivers for the Waterloo and City Line) have completely shut the line today, in an impressive display of workers' strength.

The strikes are part of overlapping and parallel disputes. RMT has two disputes, one demanding the reinstatement of Paul Bailey, and another against authoritarian management culture. Aslef's disputes relate to the latter issue, and the unfair sacking of one of their members after a procedural error.

Management spin alleges that Paul Bailey "failed a drugs test". In fact, he registered on a drugs test after taking hemp supplements, but was within the "cut-off" limit for the substance. In essence he was sacked for passing a drugs test. This calls into question the integrity of LU's entire drugs and alcohol testing regime and it's absolutely right that Paul's colleagues are striking to demand his reinstatement.

The issues around management culture closely mirror those over which drivers on the Piccadilly Line recently struck: a culture of petty discipline, hauling drivers in for unnecessary attendance reviews and case conferences, and a heavy-handed attitude to drivers from Service Control. This strike demands dignity at work, and the right not to be pushed around by bullying bosses.

The total shutdown of the lines is a testament to drivers' resolve. But while one day of action may be enough to push management into further talks, it may not be sufficient to secure concessions. If the situation doesn't improve, unions need to give serious consideration to coordinated and sustained strikes.

Central Line and Picc Line drivers: all out on 7 November!

Submitted by Tubeworker on Wed, 17/10/2018 - 13:10

RMT and Aslef drivers on the Central Line, and RMT drivers on the Piccadilly Line, will strike on 7 November. Here’s the lowdown on the Central Line strike...


RMT drivers have three ongoing disputes on the Central Line - we’re resisting the removal of detrainment staff on the Waterloo and City Line, where drivers operate out of Leytonstone depot; we’re demanding reinstatement for Paul Bailey, a driver we believe was unjustly sacked; and we’re fighting against an out-of-control management culture.

Management have backed off for now on their plans to remove Waterloo and City Line detrainment staff. They were planning to impose “flash-and-dash”, whereby, rather than the train being physically checked by a station assistant, the driver would simply be expected to flash the cab lights on and off and hope that would be enough to remind any passengers to get off, then take the train into the sidings.

In the Paul Bailey case, there is a lot of propaganda being circulated by the Central Line Operations Manager. Paul was sacked after “failing” a drugs test, for the presence of cannabinoid substances, but a second test on a sample taken at the same time showed he was well within the cut-off limit of 50-ng/mL.

Management are now moving the goalposts and saying the limit is 15-ng/mL, even though all the documentation says 50. They won’t release the results of Paul’s initial test, they’re just saying “he failed”. When pressed on why they won’t release the results, managers say, “we don’t have to”. So there’s obviously something dodgy going on in terms of openness and transparency.

The third dispute is over what the union calls a “breakdown of industrial relations”. There are a raft of issues involved here, which affect drivers at all Central Line depots. They’re similar to the issues in the Piccadilly Line dispute. Drivers feel like we’re being pushed around by management. They knowingly run trains late then effectively force drivers to work past their shift finishing times. There’s also a big issue with the authoritarian way the attendance policy is being applied; drivers who are at work with no issues are being hauled in for medical case conferences and told they’re at risk of losing their jobs!

In the Waterloo and City Line and Paul Bailey disputes, there are clear demands: retain detrainment staff, and reinstate Paul. In the other dispute, we’re fighting for a wholesale change in management culture.

We’ll strike on 7 November, alongside Aslef, who have a parallel dispute on the Central Line over similar issues. Aslef also have a live ballot mandate over cab security, but it’s not clear what their strategy is for that.

The issues with Central Line management have been ongoing for years, resurfacing over and over again. It feels like we have to strike to keep the bosses in check.

Action brings management to the table but where next?

Submitted by Tubeworker on Sun, 07/10/2018 - 00:28

The Picc line strike 26-28 September was rock solid at all depots. Management are clearly worried and now asking to return to ACAS for further talks. Aslef members respecting pickets and the involvement of the night tube for the first time show there is appetite from drivers to pile on the pressure.

It would be all to easy to go into the talks, hear some progress, just like in November and once against for them to fail to deliver. RMT should go into these talks with dates for further action named. With the ballot showing strong support for action on The Central. Picc drivers should coordinate their action. RMT branches jointly meeting with all those involved to discuss the next steps like Finsbury Park and Piccadilly & District Line West did are examples to be followed

On 26 September coming out at noon effectively gave an extra day of action, lining up to do the same when the Central Line driver's name their date will show what we are capable of.

A whole line being taken out caused plenty of problems for management, two going out together and a commitment to keep naming dates until real concessions are made would put us on the front foot and serve as an example to other grades on the combine

Picc-et Lines!

Submitted by Tubeworker on Fri, 21/09/2018 - 10:59

Drivers on the Piccadilly Line are set to strike for 48 hours from 26-28 September, with Night Tube drivers striking on 28 and 29.

Strikes were planned on the Picc from 11-14 July, but were called off after LU offered a settlement. The headline of the deal was a commitment to maintain staffing levels at Piccadilly Line depots at a level well above the agreed minimum, in an attempt to ameliorate a crisis of short staffing. At the time, there was significant dissent amongst some reps and activists, with many feeling that the offer didn't go far enough and that LU couldn't be trusted to keep up their end of the bargain. Many argued that the strikes should go ahead to give the company a reminder of who actually makes the trains move (i.e., workers, not bosses).

The strikes were suspended, but it didn't take long for those who'd argued against suspension to be vindicated. LU reneged on its commitments. Back to square one.

It's absolutely vital the strikes go ahead this time. The company clearly cannot be trusted to uphold agreements made in negotiations unless the additional pressure of workers' action is brought to bear. The only language they understand is profit; stopping the job and hitting their revenue and reputation is the only way to force concessions they actually stick to.

RMT's Finsbury Park and Piccadilly & District Line branches plan comprehensive picketing of depots at both ends of the line, which we confidently expect members of the other union will respect.

Calling off strikes at the last minute isn't cost-neutral. Workers' confidence and mobilisation can't be turned on and off like a light switch. If we train ourselves into the habit of expecting strikes to be called off, at a certain point people will stop voting for them. There's also an issue of union democracy involved; the resolution that led to the initial ballot contained a clause stipulating a 24-hour deadline for negotiations, committing the union to going ahead with strikes if no adequate settlement had been reached 24 hours in advance. Despite this, negotiations continued until the last possible minute.

We elect reps and send them into negotiations to articulate our demands and let the company know what we want. But it's industrial action that will force the changes. The model shouldn't be negotiators saying, "give us a deal and we'll suspend the strikes", it should be negotiators saying "these are our demands: will you meet them?", and if the company responds in the negative, we strike. Simple.

Obviously in the course of a dispute compromise may be necessary, and we may decide that a deal offered at a particular point represents enough of a step forward for us to accept it. But the starting point should always be workers' direct action to win our demands, not the threat of strikes used as a bargaining chip in negotiations. Even on those terms, the more strikes we suspend, the less power that threat has.

Drivers on the Picc are up for the fight, so let's take it to the bosses.

Tubeworker topics

The Central issues

Submitted by Tubeworker on Fri, 21/09/2018 - 10:42

UPDATE: Since the below article was written, Aslef have named strikes on 5 October and 7 November. RMT's ballot is due to commence shortly.


Central Line drivers are fighting an out-of-control management, in a dispute that closely mirrors the issues on the Piccadilly Line.

Central Line bosses are misapplying disciplinary procedures in a petty and authoritarian way, obstructing union reps, and misapplying the attendance policy, including by harassing drivers who are fully fit and at work! Night Tube drivers also feel left behind and denied decent welfare facilities. Drivers are also unhappy about how they're communicated with by Service Controllers.

Aslef have already balloted, and returned a massive majority for strikes. An RMT ballot is due any day. Any strikes should be coordinated between both unions.

The parallels between issues on the Central Line and the issues on the Picc suggest a coordinated effort by trains managers to conduct themselves like little bullying police officers. Our best response will be to remind them who actually makes the trains run... us, the workers!

See you on the picket lines.

Tubeworker topics

Aslef drivers vote for strikes on cab security

Submitted by Tubeworker on Fri, 21/09/2018 - 10:38

Aslef drivers have returned a big majority for strikes in their vote for action on cab security. 89% of drivers voted for strikes, on a 56% turnout.

There's clearly a significant strength of feeling around this issue, which has been brewing for some time.

Union safety reps are still in talks with the company about possible solutions to the issue; and nothing focuses the bosses' minds like the prospect of strikes. When strikes are called, Tubeworker is confident RMT drivers will respect Aslef picket lines.

Tubeworker topics

Real Cab Security Needs Station Staff

Submitted by Tubeworker on Mon, 17/09/2018 - 19:40

ASLEF drivers are balloting for industrial action on cab security, and Tubeworker hopes that RMT will soon follow. Their demand is for a secure locking system on the cab door.

But is a technical fix enough? Is it even possible for a lock to be so secure that it is impenetrable in every imaginable situation? And what about if a driver is attacked via another route, for example through the window when checking the PTI?

Drivers have become more vulnerable as the company has withdrawn staff from stations. When an attack happens, the driver needs immediate assistance from a colleague, but there are five hundred fewer of those colleagues around to help. The chances of getting someone there quickly are getting slimmer.

So for real cab security, let's demand an increase in station staffing too!

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