Disputes

Asset Operations Boxing Day dispute: good news and bad news

Submitted by Tubeworker on Thu, 04/01/2018 - 13:36

Asset Operations workers balloted for strikes to secure the same Boxing Day bonus other engineering workers get.

After RMT balloted its members, management agreed to pay the bonus to most workers. Unfortunately, however, the ballot failed to meet the turnout threshold required by the new anti-union laws.

So, two important lessons: one, sometimes even the threat of action will force concessions. And two, it’s vital every member votes in industrial action ballots!

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"Roadmap" to pay parity at Ruislip Depot

Submitted by Tubeworker on Thu, 04/01/2018 - 13:31

RMT members at the ex-AP JNP Transplant Depot at Ruislip planned a work-to-rule from 20 December, in a dispute to win pay parity with Engineering Train Operators and others, who’d recently secured a 6.1% pay increase.

Perhaps knowing that an effective work-to-rule could stop the job, management came back to the table, and have agreed a “roadmap” to pay parity.

They’ll need holding to this commitment; industrial action may still be necessary in future.

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Engineering workers to vote on strikes against Scrooge bosses

Submitted by Tubeworker on Mon, 04/12/2017 - 15:01

LU gives additional payments to, or makes special arrangements for, workers in many departments for working over Christmas and Boxing Day. The unions' ongoing battles for fair working practises for drivers on Boxing Day are well known.

But Asset Operations workers have no additional payment or any other form of recognition or remuneration for working over these days, despite the obvious impact on work/life balance.

That's why RMT members in Asset Operations are balloting for strikes to demand parity with other workers who have access to additional payments or special arrangements for Christmas/Boxing Day working. Their strike ballot closes on 12 December.

We'd like to see RMT spread the (festive) spirit of this dispute to other areas. Station staff have to work Christmas Eve and Boxing Day without any additional payments, as do cleaners. All workers should have the right to social and family time at Christmas if they want it, so let's hope the Asset Operations dispute is the launchpad for a wider fight.

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Votes yes for action at Ruislip depot!

Submitted by Tubeworker on Mon, 20/11/2017 - 11:47

Train maintainers and maintenance and stores workers at Ruislip Transplant Depot are balloting for strikes to win pay parity.

Workers are being paid unequally for doing the same work, and Advanced Train Maintainers, Team Leaders, and Duty Maintenance Managers who do train prep work and sign off trains as fit for service are being denied the associated pay enhancement.

The RMT ballot begins on 21 November and closes on 6 December.

With LU looking to cut train prep times and possibly reduce jobs, winning this struggle for pay equality could put us on the front foot and knock management's plans.

Danny Davis: back on the front in 2018

Submitted by Tubeworker on Fri, 27/10/2017 - 00:47

The Director’s Review into the sacking of Danny Davis has concluded that he will be reinstated with a guaranteed job as a train driver from 12 months after the date he was sacked. He is already about six months into that period, having been recently been reinstated as a CSA.

This is a great win for workers’ solidarity. Undoubtedly we'd all prefer to see Danny reinstated as a driver immediately, but the fact is that forcing a previously intransigent management first to reinstate him as a CSA, and then to guarantee reinstatement as a driver after a fixed period is still a victory. What forced this climb down from the company was the thumping majority for strikes secured by RMT Central Line drivers.

The campaign in the depots has been exemplary. Workplaces were plastered with propaganda and communication, making sure everyone knew the facts of the case. Members were engaged and encouraged to take an active role, speaking to friends and colleagues to raise the profile of the case and ensure everyone returned their ballot papers. The leadership of workplace reps across Central Line depots was key.

The lesson for all of us, wherever we work and whatever our grade, is that solidarity is our best weapon. When we stand up and say that we will not let the bosses ride roughshod over us, whether on an individual basis or collectively, and back that up with votes for strikes, we can force the employer back.

Tubeworker extends our congratulations to Danny and all reps, activists, and members at Central Line train depots for a battle well fought.

Solidarity with the Picturehouse cinema workers' strikes!

Submitted by Tubeworker on Fri, 06/10/2017 - 20:14

Workers at the Picturehouse cinema chain, owned by corporate giant Cineworld, have been in dispute for over a year to win living wages, union recognition, and other workplace rights. They're in the Bectu union, now a section of Prospect. Four of their reps at the Ritzy cinema in Brixton have been sacked for their role in organising the strikes, and Picturehouse has threatened any worker who continues to participate in industrial action with dismissal. RMT has been a steadfast supporter of their fight, with the national union passing a resolution of support at the 2017 AGM after several branches committed support at a local level.

The Finsbury Park RMT branch, which organises Brixton station, and the Bakerloo Line RMT branch, which organises Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus stations, near to the Picturehouse Central cinema, have been particularly active in supporting the Picturehouse workers. On Friday 6 October, the day of the workers' latest strike, union reps at Brixton, Picc, and Oxo could be seen taking Picturehouse workers round mess rooms to meet Tube workers, tell their stories, and build support for their strikes.

It's always good to be reminded that, as workers, we're part of a class, and that as trade unionists, we're part of a wider movement.

For more info on the dispute, click here. Sign the workers' online petition here, and donate to their strike fund here.

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Aslef strike off

Submitted by Tubeworker on Fri, 06/10/2017 - 19:28

What’s in the settlement Aslef called off Thursday’s strike for? Well, it’s not entirely clear.

Union reports to members say the four-day-week trial on the Jubilee Line will be "analysed", and if seen as unsuccessful, a "nine-day-fortnight" may be looked at instead. LU have also said that the current steps to reduce weekend working will continue after the 2015-2019 pay deal expires. Additionally, the company has reportedly agreed to allow three drivers per depot to move to "pro-rata four-day working", on top of existing agreements.

This is not quite the combine-wide rollout of the trial some as Aslef officials were looking for (and, it seems, called a strike for). As we’ve said before, Tubeworker isn’t wild about the model. It involves extending the maximum driving time, and we’re far from convinced that a “four-day week” that actually involves, in any given shift, working longer is worth having.

As the analysis and possible new trials continue, we want to see unions pushing back against changes to frameworks and parameters. That’ll be hard for Aslef to do, as they’ve already accepted the principle of longer driving time in exchange for the four-day week. So it may be down to rank-and-file Aslef members who don’t want nine and 10-hour shifts as standard to organise within their union to make their leaders change course.

What’s needed is a joint union dispute for work/life balance across all grades, demanding a 32-hour, four-day week for all.

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Picc Line fleet workers ballot for strikes against casualisation

Submitted by Tubeworker on Wed, 14/06/2017 - 13:34

RMT is balloting Tube Lines workers at Northfields and Cockfosters depots for strikes to stop the introduction of a two-tier workforce, after Tube Lines announced plans to employ 35 new staff on fixed-term contracts.

The union position, quite rightly, is that all new jobs should be permanent. Allowing fixed-term contracts to become the norm leads to casualisation, with workers becoming disposable depending on when the bosses decide the need is greatest.

These 35 workers are being taken on, so the company claims, to enable 24-hour lifting of trains to replace damaged wheels due to problems with rail head contamination from leaf fall and wheel flats, which caused so much grief at the end of last year. RMT has been raising this issue for months, insisting that it is dealt with properly. This must mean an increase in permanent, properly-trained staff; taking on a handful of fixed-term staff is no solution at all.

The ballot closes on 4 July. Vote yes for strikes to win permanent jobs!

Tories' anti-union laws scupper "London Bridge 3" ballot: fight must go on!

Submitted by Tubeworker on Wed, 14/06/2017 - 13:21

Today we received the disappointing news that the ballot for action to win reinstatement for Lee Cornell, and justice for Dave Sharp and Saeed Sioussi (the "London Bridge 3"), had failed to meet the 50% turnout threshold required by the Tories' Trade Union Act.

Despite returning a majority of 80% in favour of action, the 35% turnout is not enough for the union to call a legal strike, meaning cross-combine action in this dispute is impossible without a re-ballot that does hit the thresholds.

This is the Tories' anti-union laws - not just the 2017 Act but previous legislation - doing their job. They are not designed to promote democracy, but to shackle unions and prevent workers from fighting back. The thresholds demanded of unions (50% turnouts, and 40% of all those balloted voting yes in certain "essential services", including transport) are not applied to any other area of democratic life: many MPs and councillors have mandates far lower than 80% on a 35% turnout! The 2015-2017 Tory government was elected with the support of just 24% of the electorate. Previous legislation, which forces unions to conduct ballots postally, also has an effect. Voting on your own, at home, away from the discussion and solidarity of the workplace, is an atomising experience, and indeed is profoundly anti-democratic. Real democracy requires collective discussion, meetings, deliberation, debate, all conducted in person.

The fight to get Lee back to work must go on. His Employment Tribunal will go ahead, and should be supported by solidarity demonstrations. RMT still has a mandate for local action at London Bridge, and further strikes there should be called. The union can also picket in support of the ongoing action-short-of-strikes, which will maintain the profile of the dispute and be a thorn in the company's side.

This outcome is undoubtedly disheartening, most of all for Lee, Dave, and Saeed, and for the reps and activists who have worked so hard to try and leap the Tories' arbitrary hurdles. While we should learn from this disappointment and redouble our efforts in future to make sure we do hit the thresholds, we should not sink into recriminations and bitterness at colleagues who didn't return their ballots. The "blame" for this setback lies with the Tories who imposed the laws, and the employers who lobbied for them. The whole trade union movement, which met the imposition of the laws with only the most token levels of opposition, must start fighting back, calling demonstrations and rallies against the laws, and looking for ways to subvert and defy them.

Politically, getting involved in the Labour Party and campaigning for a Labour government - now a real possibility for when the Tory/DUP lash-up inevitably collapses - is a key priority. A Labour government will repeal the Trade Union Act, and should be pushed to go beyond that and legislate for genuine trade union freedom: restoring the right to workplace meetings, workplace ballots, and to take solidarity action.

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"This Simply Isn't True": A Reply to Brian Woodhead

Submitted by Tubeworker on Sat, 13/05/2017 - 00:41

Senior LU boss Brian Woodhead sent out an Employee Bulletin on Friday afternoon, which, despite its pathetic nod in the direction of appearing evenhanded (he "respects our choice" to vote for strike action, apparently!), was little more than a scurrilous piece of propaganda designed to peddle the management line in the London Bridge 3 case.

Let's break Brian's email down bit by bit...

Brian says: "The RMT is claiming that the employees involved in this case were intervening to stop a serious assault by a fare-dodger on other employees; that this was a violent attack and a pregnant colleague was punched during this incident."

This is false. RMT says that Kirsty Watts, a pregnant CSA, was pushed, not punched. This may seem like a subtle difference, but Brian is deliberately distorting matters to imply that the union is exaggerating or even fabricating events. In fact, the company itself - in recorded minutes from fact-findings and CDIs - acknowledges that Kirsty was pushed, and called for assistance.

Brian then says that he "invited the RMT General Secretary and [National] Executive Committee to view the extensive CCTV footage available in this case and other relevant material", going on to claim that the RMT NEC "didn't take up this offer". Brian is attempting to establish a narrative of union members being ordered into battle by generals who don't know, and don't want to know, the details of the case.

But this is simply a false picture. The RMT NEC has viewed the CCTV. Nothing they saw in it changed their assessment that the union is right to back Lee, Dave, and Saeed to the hilt.

Then comes a quite spectacularly disingenuous paragraph:

"I know some of you have asked why this CCTV footage hasn’t been made available more widely, so that everyone can view this and see what happened. We did consider this, but in light of the fact that the footage contains images of a number of employees and customers – including those not directly involved in this incident - we concluded that this wasn’t appropriate."

So, on the one hand, Brian wants to assure us how free he has been with the CCTV, inviting Mick Cash and the RMT NEC to view it, and claiming they haven't (even though they have). But on the other hand, Brian says that it's "not appropriate" to show the CCTV "more widely". A slight discrepancy.

But here's the real kicker, which many people reading Brian's email might not know and which Tubeworker encourages all our readers to spread far and wide: local management on the London Bridge Area have been showing the CCTV to members of staff... but only in the form of still frames. Many local staff have refused to view it; those that have say it doesn't change their opinion of the incident! Their solid strike on 7-8 May shows what they think of the issues.

So we have LU senior management claiming it's not "appropriate" to broadcast the CCTV, while local management displays what is effectively a director's cut of stills, which decontextualise the incident, to staff in the hope of dissuading them from striking.

Our employers are trying to play us for fools. LU is still maintaining its ridiculous line that the correct response would have been for Lee (who, let's remember, was being punched in the head) to step away and get out his iPad to file a "Workplace Anti-Social Behaviour" (WASB) report. Anyone who's ever worked on a gateline, or in any operational role where you come into contact with the public, can put themselves in Lee, Dave, and Saeed's (and, indeed, Kirsty's) shoes.

Brian goes on to "reassure" us that LU does "take a zero tolerance approach to violence against [staff]": patently this is untrue. Lee Cornell was punched twice in the head. He's been sacked. Zero-tolerance, Brian?

Brian's email ends by saying that LU's "internal disciplinary processes have been exhausted in this case and will not be re-opened, regardless of the outcome of the RMT’s ballot." Well, we've heard that before. We heard it in 2011, when LU sacked Eamonn Lynch. After a sustained campaign of union action, Eamonn (along with Arwyn Thomas) was reinstated. We've heard it in other reinstatement campaigns too. LU's "internal disciplinary processes" are only one channel to fight our case. Letting the company know how we feel about this injustice by withdrawing our labour is another.

Brian Woodhead claims RMT's take on the incident is false, but in reality it's his account which "simply isn't true".

Vote yes for strikes and action short when your ballot paper arrives, let's get Lee back on the job!

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