Disputes

Night Fight

Published on: Tue, 21/02/2017 - 23:18

RMT and Aslef have now declared disputes with LU over issues affecting Night Tube drivers: their exclusion from full-time jobs, and the unfair application of the overtime rate (full-time drivers get OT payments for any hours worked over 35/week, for example in the result of delays, suspensions, etc., but as Night Tube drivers, on 16-hour contracts, will never hit this threshold, they get no extra pay if their duties overrun).

Unions are demanding that Night Tube drivers be given the right to take up full-time drivers' jobs Tubeworker welcomes the move into dispute over this clear discrimination.

Now, RMT (the only union to organise on both trains and stations) must press for a clear and fair promotion path for ALL London Underground workers. Night Tube station staff are asking, “What about us?”

Many Night Tube station workers, like their driver colleagues, took the job as a stepping stone to full-time work for the underground. Others, like numerous other station staff, hoped to become drivers. It must be made clear to London Underground that station staff must be prioritised to fill part-time driver vacancies created by Night Tube drivers moving into full time roles.

Tubeworker topics

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Solid ETO Action Brings Win Closer

Published on: Fri, 17/02/2017 - 20:29

As Engineering Train Operators remain solid in their dispute with Tube Lines, union negotiators are close to reaching a satisfactory settlement. While the 6.3% pay rise has been agreed, management want to hold half of it back until after productivity improvements have been put in place.

Some of their changes are OK, but our right to a pay rise can not be dependant on management getting their way.

Tubeworker topics

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Central Line drivers: all out for 21-22 February!

Published on: Fri, 17/02/2017 - 00:42

The dispute against forced displacements of drivers from depots at the east end of the Central Line is continuing. Following a totally solid strike on 25-26 January, RMT has called further action for 21-22 February.

Tubeworker is pleased to see that, following a ballot of their own over the same issue, Aslef drivers will be joining them.

The strike also happens to coincide with the next strike day of RMT guards on Southern Rail. And with Aslef drivers there rejecting their leaders' attempts to sell out their fight against "Driver Only Operation", perhaps all these signals point to an outbreak of unity, at least at rank-and-file level?

Tubeworker topics

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Stations dispute wins concessions: celebrate the wins, organise to push for more!

Published on: Mon, 06/02/2017 - 12:17

RMT suspended strikes planned for 5-8 February, and called off its overtime ban. The suspension of action was a response to a new proposal from LU, made in Acas negotiations on Thursday 2 February, which involves some significant concessions. These include 325 additional jobs, and guaranteed promotion for all existing CSA2s to CSA1.

There's no doubt that these concessions are big wins for us. When we began this dispute, the company was intransigent, insisting that not a single penny was available for a single additional job, and that the CSA2 issue was non-negotiable. After three months of a highly effective overtime ban, which led to over 100 station closures, and unprecedented strike action which shut down London on 8-9 January, we've forced the company to change its position.

Tubeworker feels we could've pushed for more, and we agree with those who argued in the RMT reps' meeting on Friday 3 February for keeping the strikes and OT ban on. We had the momentum, and were piling the pressure on the company. We believe further strikes over 5-8 February could've won more concessions.

There are questions to be asked of the new proposal: is 325 jobs enough? And, although existing CSA2s now have guaranteed promotion, future CSA2s' right to promotion is contingent on a whole number of variables, including being prepared to work anywhere in London. Our unions will need to keep the pressure on the company to make sure they don't try to pull a fast one to avoid promoting any future CSA2s.

Both RMT and TSSA remain in dispute with the company. That means industrial action could be reinstated at any time (with seven days' notice). That's preferable to the situation we had in February 2016, when RMT not only suspended planned strikes against the launch of "Fit for the Future", but settled the entire dispute. Keeping the dispute on means we can name more action if we feel we need to. (Although, to employ a military metaphor, keeping one's powder dry by calling off strikes on the proviso that more strikes might be called later invariably diminishes the supply of powder: we might find it hard to mobilise members to strike, in a few weeks or months time, to improve a proposal that we were all told on 3 February was enough to suspend our strikes for.)

We have a lot to be proud of in this dispute. The concessions we've won are significant and certainly worth celebrating. To claw back around 40% of the 853 jobs LU cut under "Fit for the Future" is no mean feat. On top of this, LU was administratively unable to carry through another 100-odd of the planned cuts, meaning they've only managed to cut around 40% of the jobs they intended to. Although losing a single job is a defeat, we should be proud of how far we have pushed the company back.

The guarantee of automatic promotion for existing CSA2s is a huge win too, meaning a significant bump in pay, terms, and conditions for many workers and guaranteeing dozens more safety-critical staff on stations.

And our 8-9 January strike destroyed the common sense that had developed, on the job and within RMT, that station grades couldn't take effective industrial action on our own. That experience should impact on our consciousness and confidence going forward.

Could we have come away from this dispute with more? Tubeworker believes so. When the dispute was launched, members were told to prepare for a protracted battle, and the 8-9 January strike (which many reps and activists felt should have been longer) was presented as the opening salvo in an ongoing campaign of strikes. Station staff may, therefore, be bemused at being congratulated for a magnificent, solid action in one breath, but being told we're settling for something that falls short of our demands in the next. The strike was indeed solid and magnificent: why, therefore, not maintain that pressure and momentum to push for more concessions?

In terms of the overall situation, we are still in a largely unfavourable position, with ticket offices having been closed, many jobs cut, and new grading system imposed, and many workers displaced.

But all of that would have been much, much worse had we not mounted the fight we have. If we had rolled over and given up, we wouldn't have won a single job back and management would be looking to consolidate the CSA grade downwards, not upwards.

Tubeworker will continue to argue for renewed fights to win better staffing levels; improved working conditions; and more rights and power for us in the workplace, and use our blog and bulletin to discuss the best strategies for doing this. We invite all station staff, and all LU workers, to join us in doing that!

In the meantime, the action we took in this dispute and the concessions we won can make us confident and bold in the fights to come.

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ETO Strike Solid

Published on: Sun, 05/02/2017 - 11:24

Engineering Train Operators are out on strike this weekend after management introduced job cuts into talks about restructuring and pay - and further action is planned.

For around nine months, talks have been taking place between Tube Lines, RMT and ASLEF about new Engineering Train Operator grades and pay rates, which are supposed to be in place by 1 March. Just when the unions thought they were on the home straight to reaching an agreement, management rolled a grenade into the room: they want to make redundancies to fund the pay rise - despite the unions having already agreed to various productivity measures.

The ETOs and both unions have responded in the most effective way possible: a solid strike with more to follow. Tube Lines management can be in no doubt that they will not get willing agreement to sell jobs for pay.

Every job matters.

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An Open Letter To a London Transport User: Why You Should Support the #TubeStrike

Published on: Thu, 02/02/2017 - 14:27

Dear London Transport User,

As you probably know by now, we (that is, London Underground station staff) are planning further strikes over 5-8 February. Many news reports focus almost exclusively not on the reasons behind our strikes, but on the impact it will have on you, the people who use the services our labour makes possible.

I'm writing this letter, as an LU station worker and supporter of the strikes, to urge you to resist our employer's, and the media's, attempts to turn you against us, and explain why you should support our strike.

Why are we striking?

We're striking to win an increased staffing level on the Tube.

There are other demands associated with our dispute, but they are all linked to this fundamental, central, issue: job cuts. Over the past 18 months, London Underground has reduced the frontline staffing level by nearly 1,000 posts.

If you regularly use central London stations, you may've noticed that the ticket halls seem busier. There are fewer staff on gatelines, meaning there are fewer people to answer your questions or assist you at ticket machines. If you're a disabled passenger, you might've found yourself waiting for longer for the assistance you need.

If you use outlying stations, you may have found they're frequently unstaffed. If an incident occurs, if you have an enquiry, if there's a problem with your ticket or Oyster card, there's literally no-one there to help.

For you, job cuts means a poorer service and less safe stations. For us, job cuts have meant fewer people doing more work.

As part of its job cuts, London Underground has de-staffed station control rooms at major locations like Canning Town. This has already led to significant safety incidents. Ask yourself if you want to travel on a network where there's no-one monitoring platforms, escalators, and concourses, and where, if an incident occurs, there's only one or two members of staff on duty, possibly in another part of the station entirely, with no way of knowing what's happened.

LU has also restructured the grading system on stations, introducing a new "Customer Service Assistant 2" grade. These members of staff are not safety-critical, meaning they cannot perform the full range of tasks necessary in an evacuation or similar incident. Despite this, they are being counted towards stations' "minimum numbers" (the legally-stipulated minimum staffing level a station needs to remain open). In an evacuation, they could do little more than stand by an exit and point. As a transport user, does that make you feel safe?

These workers are being exploited by London Underground. Despite not being safety-critical, they have been trained to carry out cash-handling duties previously performed by ticket office staff. This means workers paid £23k/year are doing work previously carried out by workers paid £36k/year.

In almost every other industry, workers who handle cash get a salary uplift to reflect the increased responsibility and risk (after all, if there's a discrepancy on the accounts, those workers' jobs are on the line). Only on London Underground are workers who handle cash frequently paid less than those who don't.

This is why we're striking. Our demands are:

  • Reverse all job cuts, increase the staffing level
  • Staff all control rooms
  • Consolidate the CSA grades, training all CSA2s to become fully safety-critical CSA1s
  • London Underground is making these cuts because Transport for London, of which LU is a subsidiary, has had its central government funding slashed. The Tories plan to cut it entirely by 2020, which would make TfL the only metropolitan transport system in the world not to receive central government subsidy. This is part of the Tories' ideological project to under-fund and run down public services, increasing the prospects for privatisation.

    Even within TfL and LU's current budgets, we believe it is possible to meet our demands. Our bosses have chosen to pass on these Tory cuts by looking to cut at the frontline rather than looking for savings elsewhere. However, in the longer term, only a political campaign against the funding cut will secure the money necessary to maintain and improve the Tube. We want Sadiq Khan to join with us in campaigning for the reinstatement of the subsidy, instead of using his position to attack us, his own employees.

    Do you want an under-funded Tube service, with 1,000 fewer staff, with busy, central London stations staffed by non-safety-critical workers and with no-one in their control rooms?

    Think about that situation, and ask yourself whether us winning our dispute and securing our demands will result in a better, safer service for you as a passenger.

    Of course it will! It's in your interests as much as ours that we win this fight.

    What about the inconvenience?

    We know that our strikes have an impact on you, our passengers, as well as our employer's business. None of us relish the inconvenience we cause, but this is an inescapable reality of the nature of the work we do: every day, our labour moves you around London. If we withdraw that labour, London stops moving.

    When any workers take industrial action, some inconvenience is caused to someone, and often to other working-class people. Public sector workers' strikes will negatively impact on the people who use the services we provide, and even private sector workers taking action may lead to a particular product that working-class consumers rely on not being produced or distributed.

    In the past, we have experimented with forms of action that hit the employer in the pocket, but minimise the impact on passengers, such as "revenue strikes". We should explore those tactics again. But our fundamental form of leverage and power is the withdrawal of our labour. The right to withdraw labour is what ultimately distinguishes a worker from a slave. Bluntly, it is not a right any worker should forego because exercising it might inconvenience other people.

    In asking you to support us, we are asking you to rise above the immediate feelings of frustration you might have about having a longer commute to work, or having to stand on a packed bus. We are asking you to look at a bigger picture, both to respect our right to withdraw our labour, and to see how, in the long run, a few days' inconvenience might be a reasonable trade off for the improvements you will benefit from if we win our dispute.

    "You don't see me striking!"

    Part of the reason our strikes attract such extraordinary and exaggerated venom (in an increasingly barbaric world, is "misery" really a proportionate term to use to describe the impact of our strikes?) is because we are an exception to a rule. Strike figures are at the lowest ever levels, and the trade union movement is half the size it was at its peak in 1979. Taking industrial action only seems like a reckless or "selfish" thing to do because so many of us have become acculturated to meekly accepting our lot; to giving up on the idea that we have any power at work; to accepting that the bosses have all the power and that job cuts, wage freezes, and other attacks on our rights at work can perhaps be grumbled about but never stopped or reversed.

    Another aspect of this acculturation is that the relatively better pay, terms, and conditions that workers like ourselves have managed to win and defend become something for other workers to be resentful of, rather than aspire to. They are encouraged in that resentment by the right-wing, bosses' media, desperate to divide worker against worker, and never calling attention to the really obscene differentials - which are not between the levels of pay of different workers, but between workers and our employers, within every industry.

    All of this is embodied in the tragically ironic phrase every Tube worker will have heard a version of at least once: "Things at my work are shit, but you don't see me striking."

    Perhaps you've uttered this phrase yourself, or thought it. But it doesn't have to be like that. You could organise at work too. Yes, not every group of workers has the same industrial leverage as public transport workers, and not every strike will be a success. But there is no group of workers that has no power at all. If you have a boss, then that boss relies on you to make profit. That means you have power. We ask for your solidarity when we exercise ours, but we will also extend it to you in exercising yours.

    What can you do?

    If you support our strikes, you can:

  • Show your support on social media: tweet @RMTLondon and @RMTUnion, using the #TubeStrike hashtag, to say you support us.
  • Share information about why we are striking with your family, friends, and workmates.
  • Visit a picket line to talk to us and express your support directly. A list of picket locations for the upcoming strikes will appear on the RMT London website soon.
  • Email Mayor Khan, at mayor@london.gov.uk, to express your support for our strikes and demand that he supports union demands for increased central government subsidy for TfL.
  • Use TfL's online complaints form to oppose job cuts and express your support for the strikes.
  • Write to your MP to demand that they oppose the cut in central government funding for TfL.
  • All of that will be valuable and appreciated. But the most essential and powerful way to express solidarity is not just to support what we're doing, but to join us in a common struggle. That means organising in your own workplace and fighting for better and safer conditions, and more rights and power for workers.

    If you're not a member of a trade union, you can find out which union covers your sector using the TUC's union finder here. If there is no union organising in your sector, you can join a general union such as Unite or GMB. In some sectors and industries, such as parts of the so-called "gig economy" in companies like Deliveroo and Uber, some workers have organised through non-TUC-affiliated independent unions like the Independent Workers' union of Great Britain (IWGB) and the United Voices of the World (UWV).

    Joining a union and becoming part of the labour movement makes you part of a collective struggle. We look forward to a conversation that's less about the inconvenience we might cause each other, but what support we can provide to help each other win.

    Yours in solidarity,
    A member of London Underground station staff, RMT activist, and Tube striker.

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    Threat Of Strikes Forces New Offer From LU: Keep Strikes On To Win More!

    Published on: Sun, 29/01/2017 - 21:57

    RMT has named new strike dates in the station staffing dispute, from 18:00 on 5 February to 10:00 on 6 February, and from 10:00 on 7 February to 00:59 on 8 February.

    In response, LU has made us a new offer. They're proposing to reinstate 325 jobs, re-staff most (but not all) the control rooms they de-staffed, and establish a promotion pathway to CSA1 for existing CSA2s.

    This all requires a bit of unpicking.

    Firstly, let's remind ourselves of the basic lesson here: direct action gets the goods. LU is only making a new offer because of our ongoing overtime ban, our magnificent strike on 8-9 January, and the threat of further action to come.

    We've already pushed the bosses a long way. When this dispute began, they were intransigent, insisting that not a single job cut would be reversed, and that the CSA2 grade was non-negotiable. One month into an overtime ban and suddenly they were offering 250 jobs. A fortnight after our strike, and that number had increased again. Under pressure from the threat of further strikes, suddenly they've started budging on the CSA2 issue as well.

    Let's look at the detail of the offer, though: is 325 jobs enough to address the crisis of under-staffing and lone working? Is anything short of a commitment that all control rooms will be staffed satisfactory? And does the promotion pathway for CSA2s (the wording of which in the text of the offer is profoundly ambiguous) go for enough towards resolving the huge problems created by the creation of a two-tier CSA grade?

    Tubeworker's answers are no, no, and no.

    It is, however, undeniable that this latest offer is a vast leap forward for our bosses, considering their position when we began the dispute. Should we therefore react by saying, "they're meeting us halfway, let's return the favour and call off our strike"? This did indeed seem to be the attitude of TSSA leaders in response to an earlier, worse, offer to resolve the dispute (luckily they were forced to keep their action on thanks to a revolt by workplace reps and activists).

    Whether being met "halfway" would be worth settling for is arguable in itself (Tubeworker would argue not). But this offer doesn't even do that. 325, while a significant improvement on zero, is still fewer than half the jobs axed under "Fit for the Future". We might not end up with everything we want, but why would we let the bosses up off the ropes when we've got all the momentum and it's clear they're vulnerable to pressure?

    If anything, we should increase it. Tubeworker endorses the motion, passed at a recent RMT Bakerloo Line branch meeting, which argues that further strikes should:

  • Be longer than 48 hours
  • Seek to maximise disruption, for example by taking place on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday
  • Involve Night Tube staff, with at least one strike day starting or finishing at 23:01 on a Friday
  • Be announced as part of an ongoing programme of action, also involving demos, rallies etc., similar the approach RMT has pursued in the dispute on Southern
  • Coordinate as much as possible with other disputes, including the Central Line Drivers’ dispute and the Southern dispute.
  • We like that RMT is taking a creative approach to the next strikes, calling out particular shifts to maximise disruption in the morning and evening peak but minimising the number of days' pay members will lose. Tubeworker has argued for this creative approach to action for some time and we're glad to see it taken up. If swiftly followed by further action, either additional selective strikes or further all-out strikes, we're confident we can push the employer even closer to conceding our demands.

    The public rally the RMT plans on 1 February is also an excellent initiative that could help situate our industrial dispute in a wider struggle for safe, accessible public transport.

    All in all, Tubeworker reckons we're a long way from having to settle for a compromise deal. Station staff are still up for the fight, so let's keep the strikes on and push for more!

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    Ballot Imminent on Fleet: Strike Against Job Cuts!

    Published on: Wed, 18/01/2017 - 22:58

    RMT has declared a new dispute on fleet, as management tries to pull a fast one with job cuts and breaching agreements.

    A union statement cites "ongoing attacks at various levels", such as:

  • Not consulting or negotiating with this Union about reducing staff numbers within Fleet
  • Breaching our agreement on Night Tube and their failure to recruit the additional staff to cover this job
  • Actively attacking our Reps for carrying out their duties
  • Not following the correct process when seeking to change rosters
  • Removing a very long and established practice of ‘phone in days’ throughout Fleet without full and meaningful consultation
  • Station staff will undoubtedly hear echoes of their own struggles here. Failing to increase the staffing level, despite an increased workload, and indeed cutting jobs will be familiar to many. And the abuse of procedures and breaching agreements parallel recent drivers' disputes on the Picc, H&C, and Central.

    Tubeworker encourages all fleet members to vote yes to strikes and action short once the ballot gets underway. Reps and activists across all grades should be looking for ways to link up and coordinate the disputes.

    Tubeworker topics

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    Central Line drivers to strike against displacements

    Published on: Wed, 18/01/2017 - 22:19

    After a resounding vote in favour of action, RMT drivers at Hainault, Leytonstone, and Loughton Traincrew Depots will strike from 21:00 on Wednesday 25 January to 20:59 on Thursday 26.

    They're striking against displacements; Tubeworker previously covered the dispute here (if you're reading this article on a platform that doesn't include hyperlinks, the URL is: http://www.workersliberty.org/node/27399).

    We need strong pickets at all depots, and we hope Aslef members will respect them.

    With forced displacements now an issue on both stations and trains, our unions should look for ways to coordinate the disputes.

    Tubeworker topics

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    After historic strike, let's maintain momentum!

    Published on: Tue, 10/01/2017 - 13:40

    Yesterday's strike of station and revenue staff was historic. We showed that we have immense power when we stand together. Our strike shut down central London, putting immense pressure on the employer and exposing the depths of their staffing crisis.

    Lively pickets were mounted at stations across London, with TSSA reps and activists joining their RMT colleagues (despite TSSA's last-minute wobble!). With unity in the dispute maintained, the logic points towards one industrial union for all Tube workers.

    Fantastic solidarity was shown by other grades, with many drivers refusing to cross picket lines and many more rightly refusing to drive their trains through unstaffed, or unsafely staffed, stations.

    Support from the public on picket lines was high. With leaflets, social media, and interviews we got our message out: LU must reverse jobs cuts and properly staff stations, not with cut-price CSA2s, but with CSA1s and above, and put in place a plan for consolidating the two CSA grades upwards. If LU claim there's no money available, Mayor Khan must stop his disgraceful union bashing and join our fight to demand increased funding from central government.

    The employer is on the ropes. We have to maintain our momentum. Tubeworker would like to see further action called as soon as possible, escalating the strike beyond 24 hours and experimenting with rolling and selective strikes of different shifts to maximise impact. There is a mandate for this from previous reps' meetings, and while further meetings to plan and strategise are necessary, there is already a clear consensus for further action.

    Yesterday's strike was replete with lessons. On the job (and within RMT, as the only all-grades union on LU), today's strike should decisively kill off the idea, expressed by some in moments of despair and pessimism, that station grades have no power and must be reliant on the leverage of drivers or engineers to win concessions. We should always aspire to all-grades unity, but yesterday we proved that we can strike as station staff and shut the job down. This should embolden and empower us going forward.

    Our strike is also a little window into where power lies, and how we can change society. It's easy to feel small, to feel like a cog in a machine, when you're going through the daily grind of shifts and you're at the whim of the employer. But a day like yesterday reminds us that it doesn't have to be like that. We move London, not our bosses. The power is in our hands. As the old slogan from revolutionary France in 1968 puts it: Le patron a besoin de toi, mais tu n'as pas besoin de lui. To paraphrase the translation: our bosses need us, but we don't need them.

    There's also a lesson for other workers in our action. Although public support has been high, we'll all have experienced (whether on picket lines, on social media, at work in the run up to the strike, or down the pub) some version of the following arguments: our strikes are "selfish"; we're "holding London to ransom"; or, "I have worse job than you and you don't see me going on strike."

    These arguments, which manifest as hostile abuse, are actually expressions of resentment borne of a feeling of powerlessness. In an economy where labour is massively on the defensive against capital, where the labour movement is weak and in retreat, hostility to our strikes from other working-class people expresses resentment that they don't have the same organisation and power at work as we do.

    But they could! Of course, not every job or industry is as integral to the day-to-day functioning of London as public transport, but the key difference between us and other groups of workers is that we have a high level of union membership and that we are prepared to use our unions as tools via which to take action. We should encourage fellow members of our class to see our level of organisation, and our action, not as something to resent but as something to aspire to.

    Every striker should be congratulated for the resolve they showed yesterday. Let's push on and win our dispute!

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