Prepare for action in train prep fight

Published on: Fri, 28/12/2018 - 09:47

RMT has now declared an official dispute with LU over its plans to cut train prep frequency from 24 hours.

The plan, which could see trains run for up to three days without having basic checks performed, threatens staff safety, passenger safety, and jobs, and must be resisted.

If LU doesn’t back down from the planned cut, we must fight back industrially, and across all grades.

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Wins for station staff at Baker Street and Bakerloo Line South

Published on: Thu, 20/12/2018 - 18:00

Station staff at Baker Street and the Bakerloo Line South Cover Group are finishing 2018 on a high after the threat of strikes forced concessions from management.

At Baker Street, an unjustly sacked probationer was reinstated, and trumped up disciplinary charges against two staff, including the local RMT rep, were dropped after workers returned a big majority for industrial action.

On the Bakerloo South Group, which includes Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, Charing Cross, Lambeth North, and Elephant and Castle, workers have forced a 180° u-turn from management on the issue of short staffing.

Management had been operating a policy of refusing to cover uncovered duties, citing budgetary concerns. A massive vote for action and the threat of a strike on Boxing Day forced a total climb down, with management committing in writing to cover all duties.

A second strike is planned for 14 January, which remains on as workers see if management keep to their word. It's important reps and activists keep a keen eye on management make sure they're enacting their commitments. And even if they behave themselves over the next two weeks, allowing for a possible suspension of January's strike, any backsliding must be met with action. The ballot mandate lasts until July, remember.

Notwithstanding this need to keep the pressure on to ensure commitments are met, these are both great results for station workers. Let’s spread the struggles!

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Barking drivers plan strikes

Published on: Thu, 20/12/2018 - 17:58

Aslef drivers at Barking depot on the Hammersmith and City Line will strike on 10 and 23 January, as yet another group of drivers encounters problems with depot management throwing their weight around and ignoring agreements.

Surely it’s time for a combine-wide drivers’ fight back against bullying bosses?

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Central Line strikes off, but fight on the line must continue and spread

Published on: Thu, 20/12/2018 - 17:13

RMT has suspended the strike of Central Line drivers planned for 21-22 December, which sought the reinstatement of sacked driver Paul Bailey, citing "new evidence" presented by management. The union's statement can be read here.

Whatever this "new evidence" is, it's something management have clearly been sitting on since the dispute began. Whether cock-up or conspiracy prevented them from releasing it until now, it's scandalous that they haven't done so. RMT has fought against a mismanaged procedure on the basis of the facts the union had available, and were entirely right to do so. Paul's case will now continue at Employment Tribunal, where those arguments about LU's woeful mishandling of the case can be pursued.

The strike also doubled up as action in a wider dispute about authoritarian management culture on the line. RMT reps says concessions on this have been secured, including a commitment from management to review ongoing attendance and disciplinary cases. Whether these are sufficient to have warranted the suspension of the strike is a difficult call, but it's important that this dispute is not allowed to fade away. We know from the experience of the Picc Line dispute that action may still be necessary to force management to keep to their commitments.

The disputes on the Central Line, Picc Line, and now on the H&C at Barking, where Aslef drivers plan strikes on 10 and 23 January, show that there's an obvious problem across the job with bosses at train depots throwing their weight around. Our unions need to show some joined-up thinking and coordinate the trains side disputes.

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Bakerloo station staff to strike

Published 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.

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Union declares victory in “battle of Baker Street”

Published 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.

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Central Line drivers to strike again

Published 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

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Central shutdown

Published 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.

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

Published 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.

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Action brings management to the table but where next?

Published 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

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