Disputes

Picc/H&C Strikes Suspended. Christmas Working and Dean Storey Ballots Still On: Vote Yes!

Published on: Wed, 07/12/2016 - 19:54

RMT suspended strikes planned on the Piccadilly and Hammersmith and City Lines, after management made significant concessions in Acas talks.

The union says it has achieved "all objectives" in the Picc Line dispute. According to an RMT circular, management have confirmed that there are "no plans to extend the use of Cockfosters Depot facilities, and that all drivers will continue to receive full familiarisations. A SPAD policy briefing with management will take place in conjunction with Trains Functional Council reps to seek to resolve any negative perceptions, and to ensure the process is undertaken fairly and consistently. Assurances have been received on other issues, and Brother Gary Fitzpatrick's [a victimised union rep] safety has been protected by removing the other party from the workplace while the matter is resolved through the proper procedures."

Undoubtedly the added pressure of the fleet issues on the Picc made management keen to avoid a strike, but what has won this dispute is the organisation and resolve of RMT drivers in Picc Line depots. It's proof that it's not clever negotiations, but workplace organisation, that gets the goods.

RMT says it is satisfied with assurances received from management on the Hammersmith and City Line about adherence to procedures, and has suspended the strike there too. Driver members will need to remain vigilant to make sure the bosses keep their promises.

A ballot of drivers on the H&C and District Lines, over Christmas and NYE working, continues. The ballot for drivers in depots at the west end of the Central Line, to win reinstatement for unfairly sacked Dean Storey, is also ongoing. The ballots close on 15 and 13 December respectively. Tubeworker encourages drivers to vote yes.

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Ban-tastic!

Published on: Sun, 04/12/2016 - 00:47

The overtime ban is biting. Major stations including Temple, St. James's Park, Earl's Court, and Bond Street have all closed. Dozens of other stations have had partial closures or been left unstaffed.

LU's online updates continue to use the ridiculous formulation "absence of staff" to explain closures, as if we simply haven't turned up or have got lost on the way to work! Most CSMs and CSSs have been translating this nonsensical management-speak when they make their stations PAs, and using the more accurate "lack of staff" or "staff shortage" to explain the closures.

RMT members, and the TSSA members who've supported them so far (TSSA's own ban kicks in from 8 December, and excepting a few ignoble instances, many TSSA members have respected RMT's ban up to now), have taken a stand by refusing to help the company paper of the cracks in an understaffed system. The increasing closures expose the reality: stations are reliant on overtime to remain open. In other words, the company needs us to sell them more of our labour power than we agreed to when we signed our contracts. When we refuse, stations close.

The company is on the ropes. They've already made concessions in Acas negotiations, accepting that jobs need to be put back on stations and agreeing to participate in a seven-day review alongside our unions to determine where to allocate them.

We've been here before, with similar "reviews" resulting in paltry numbers of jobs coming back. The number of job cuts management reverse will be directly proportional to how much pressure they feel under. So let's turn it up: let's name strikes!

It's too late for us to coordinate with the Hammersmith and City and Picc Line drivers' strikes on 6 December, but we could strike in parallel with Southern guards and drivers' actions on 13-14, 16, or 19-20 December. Naming strikes on one or several of those dates would focus the bosses' minds wonderfully, and let them know that if the review doesn't result in widespread reversals of job cuts, with hundreds of jobs coming back onto stations, we will walk out.

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Reasons to back the ban: figures show scandal of LU's overtime bill

Published on: Tue, 22/11/2016 - 22:55

RMT's overtime ban for stations and revenue staff kicks in at 00.01 tonight/tomorrow morning. TSSA's ballot, which closes on 29 November, is expected to see their members join the action. Locally, several TSSA reps have been urging their members to respect RMT's ban.

Figures obtained and published by the RMT reveal the scandal of LU's overtime bill. In one month, from August-September 2016, the company shelled out nearly £700,000 in overtime payments, including a bill for nearly £100,000 on the Central Line alone. Projected over a year, that's more than £8 million, enough to cover the basic annual salary of nearly 300 CSAs.

If stations are so understaffed that the company is having to fork out the better part of a million quid in overtime payments in a single month just to keep things on an even keel, how can they say "Fit for the Future" is working?!

They will get further evidence that their new model is, in fact (as the saying heard in mess rooms across the combine has it), "fit for fuck all", when stations begin to close due to staff refusing overtime.

Our message is clear: reverse the cuts, staff our stations!

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Station staff ballot returns huge majorities for action: don't work overtime from 23 November! Prepare for strikes!

Published on: Tue, 15/11/2016 - 22:17

RMT's ballot of station staff for action against job cuts has returned thumping majorities for both strikes (85%) and action-short-of-strikes (94%). TSSA's ballot is expected back next week.

RMT has called an overtime ban from 23 November. With the staffing levels slashed to a bare minimum post-“Fit for the Future”, coverage is almost unworkably stretched, and many stations are now totally reliant on overtime. An effective ban will lead to dozens of station closures, sending a very direct message to the company that they must increase the staffing level.

Tubeworker believes that an overtime ban should be announced as part of a wider package of action, that also a ban on higher grade working, and strikes. Although there might be a temptation to stick the OT ban on and then wait and see, the likelihood is that further action will be needed, and announcing strikes – perhaps to coincide with Southern workers' next action, on 6-8 December – will let the company know we're serious about this dispute.

We should also experiment with other forms of action, such as rolling strikes of particular shifts. Tubeworker also reckons the idea of a revenue strike should be looked at again. This was trialled in 2014, with mixed results, but where it was properly built for on the ground, it did have an impact.

The turnout in the ballot was lower than we'd like it to be. We should use that as motivation to improve our organising, making sure reps are building up workplace organisation and making sure members are engaged with the union. But we shouldn't let it dishearten us, or allow it to be used as an excuse for not pressing ahead with action. Postal ballots are designed to produce low turnouts, as they force us to vote alone, away from our colleagues and the atmosphere of collective discussion that exists at work. A boring-looking brown envelope with “Electoral Reform Services” stamped on it landing on our doormat can easily be mistaken for junk mail. Ultimately, the real test isn't how many workers participate in the ballot, but how many workers participate in the action.

The RMT Piccadilly Line drivers' ballot, in their line-specific dispute over management abuse of procedures and victimisation of reps, also returned a huge majority for action, opening up the possibility for coordinated action with stations. RMT is also balloting drivers on the District Line and possibly the Central Line, and there's a live strike mandate on the Hammersmith and City Line. Coordinated action in these distinct disputes should be a stepping stone to rebuilding the all-grades solidarity that could underpin one united dispute against cuts.

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Stations Ballot: Vote Yes/Yes!

Published on: Wed, 02/11/2016 - 19:37

RMT has begun balloting members on stations for strikes, and action short of strikes, against the fallout from "Fit for the Future". Tubeworker encourages all readers to vote yes/yes!

Our correspondents at the latest round of "Managing Our Stations" training courses at Ashfield House tell us that new LU Managing Director Mark Wild attended, and when put on the spot about cuts, admitted that LU had cut too deep and that the current model was unworkable! You couldn't make it up.

LU bosses' "solution" is, so rumour has it, a grade-based shuffle-around, which may see additional CSS jobs created at the expense of CSM2 positions. Our solution is different: renewed funding to increase frontline staffing at all levels.

That's what this dispute is all about. We're striking for jobs, safety, work/life balance, and an accessible service for our passengers.

Tubeworker believes our unions should be ready with a strategy the day the ballot result comes back; to formulate that, unions should call reps and activists' meetings in the next 10 days so we can hit the ground running when the vote closes on 15 November. We'd like to see an immediate overtime ban called, with a programme of strikes to follow that up. We should emulate the approach of the RMT in the inspiring Southern Rail dispute: not just naming one or two days of strikes and then waiting-and-seeing, but announcing a whole programme of action stretching over months, letting both bosses and members know we're in it to win it. Coordinating action with live disputes involving drivers on the Hammersmith and City and Piccadilly Lines, and possibly others too, is also a must.

We've got a big fight ahead of us. The background to all of this is the cuts to TfL/LU's central government subsidy, which the Tories want to slash to zero by 2020. We need Sadiq Khan, a Labour mayor, to publicly demand and campaign for that subsidy to be reinstated. The Tories need to know that the consequence of pushing ahead with those cuts is indefinite industrial unrest.

We can get the travelling public behind us on this one; the Tories' plans would mean London would be the only major metropolitan transport system in the world without a central government subsidy. Passengers know that's madness. They want a properly funded, properly staffed Tube network. Unions should accompany our industrial action with a political campaign to pressure the GLA and the government, and build public support for increasing staffing levels and reopening ticket offices.

RMT members: make sure you return your ballots by 15 November. Vote yes/yes!

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Make It A Hot Autumn!

Published on: Thu, 22/09/2016 - 18:06

In 1969, a wave of strikes by workers in Italy’s car industry was nicknamed “autonno caldo”, the “hot autumn”. As August turns in September, it’s time to start building for our own “hot autumn” on LU.

Stations

RMT previously suggested it will ballot stations and revenue staff for renewed strikes against the consequences of “Fit for the Future” in September. Time's running out for that; a reps' meeting is scheduled for 26 September, but it's now looking unlikely there'll be a ballot underway before the end of the month.

There is no good reason to have not declared a new dispute, and launched a new ballot, already. There is no shortage of issues around which a new dispute could be constructed: displacements, training, abuses of the Attendance At Work policy, and of course the fundamental issue of job cuts and staffing levels.

The sooner the ballot is announced the better: there’s nothing like a strike ballot to focus the mind.
Strikes should be supplemented by an overtime ban, and we should follow the example of our brothers and sisters on Southern and Eurostar by announcing sustained and impacting strikes: one or two days won’t cut it.

There are rumours of further cuts to be announced soon, under the aegis of "TfL transformation", with some arguing we should wait to see how they shape up before we act. But waiting just allows the bosses to gain momentum. We know we'll want to fight any new cuts, whatever they are, and there's enough going on now to merit new strikes.

Any new dispute on stations will be significantly strengthened if TSSA are involved. TSSA activists should be arguing within their union for them to get back in the ring.

Trains

We’ve seen a few stop-start disputes on trains side recently, on the Piccadilly Line, Central Line, and Victoria Line. A solid strike on the H&C over 14-15 September shut down the service.

There is clearly a long list of ongoing issues, many of which seem to be generalised across lines and depots: over-zealous managements abusing and breaching policies, for example. As managers on stations play increasingly fast and loose with policies such as Attendance At Work, some of those issues are taking on more of an all-grades character.

There’ve also been issues around rostering, and the unfair treatment of pool drivers in some depots. The testing of driverless trains on the Jubilee Line is also a huge provocation which merits an industrial response.

Our unions (in the first place, RMT, as the only all-grades union on the job) needs to rebuild solidarity between grades and functions.

Job cuts on stations affect drivers too, and our aspiration should be for a united dispute across the whole job, on shared issues.

Cleaners

Cleaners are being pummelled by the ruthless contractors to whom LU outsources.

Interserve and ISS are scrambling to undercut each other as they race to win the “super contract” due to be awarded next year.

Unions are weak in the cleaning grade, so the first job is the basic one of building up workers’ confidence and union strength. While that’s ongoing, a public campaign to embarrass the cleaning companies by exposing their exploitative practises could put real pressure on them.

There should be regular union demos outside Interserve and ISS offices, and the aim to launch industrial action as soon as possible. RMT's planned day of action on 13 October is an excellent start.

Engineering and Fleet

The dispute over core agreements on Fleet is almost certain to intensify soon; management right across the job are taking every opportunity they can to cut corners with policies and agreements.
TubeLines shunters and engineering train drivers have struck recently, and there may be fresh issues arising out of the cancellation of the Amey contract on the JNP.

Unions must identify common issues across functions and coordinate action wherever possible.

Tubeworker topics

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Drivers' Strikes

Published on: Mon, 12/09/2016 - 02:34

There's another drivers' strike coming down the line, following a strike by engineering train drivers over the weekend.

RMT and Aslef members struck as part of a dispute over pay and conditions. They've already won a 6.3% pay rise, and are pushing for further concessions on issues including rostering.

RMT drivers on the Hammersmith and City Line are due to strike on 15-16 September, as they fight to rein in an authoritarian management.

If the issues aren't resolved to workers' satisfaction, further action is a must!

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Time For Strikes

Published on: Fri, 02/09/2016 - 14:18

The week is ending on a downer for LU station staff, as we discover that management will impose a "Transfer and Promotions" policy that essentially allows them to move us around as and when it suits them, giving us little to no say in the matter.

Displacements will hit our already dismal work/life balance yet further. Again and again, management show that they do not see us human beings with social and family lives, but as equipment.

Our union negotiators will push for concessions but our real power derives from our ability to refuse to be use as equipment. In other words, to strike.

Displacements, with the threat of more to come, is one issue amongst many. Our stations are staffed at unworkably low levels, leading to fatigue-inducing rosters. A training crisis means hundreds of us aren't properly trained for new roles in new locations. And promises the company made to station staff, including the commitment that CSA2s would benefit from the pay rise which arrived in April, have been broken. The list goes on.

We need a ballot for new strikes, and we need it now.

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Bring It All In House!

Published on: Thu, 25/08/2016 - 21:07

The full reintegration of former "TubeLines" engineering maintenance work on the Jubilee, Northern, and Piccadilly Lines into LUL represents the culmination of a years-long union campaign to bring outsourced work back in house. Their continued outsourcing was a legacy of the disastrous "Public Private Partnership".

It is a testament to the resolve of members and reps in those depots who stood firm through a number of disputes and never abandoned the aspiration to fully reverse the privatisation.

It shows that, despite their apparent obsession with outsourcing everything that moves, LUL can sometimes be pushed to reverse outsourcing and reintegrate. With possible strikes ahead against outsourcing on fleet, and cleaning contracts up in the air due to LUL's plans to consolidate them into a single "super contract" next year, unions should press their advantage and go on the offensive to demand an end to outsourcing.

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Defend - And Extend! - The Core Work Agreement

Published on: Thu, 25/08/2016 - 20:54

A strike ballot is imminent for RMT members on fleet, as they resist the company's breaches of the Core Work Agreement.

This agreement, hard won in struggle, places clear restrictions on the amount of agency labour the company can use, and guarantees that all the integral work will be done by directly-employed LU staff. Management have been cutting corners with the agreement for some time: it has to stop.

This issue doesn't just affect workers on fleet. If management get away with flagrant breaches of this agreement, they'll try their luck elsewhere. Unions should fight to extent the principle of the Core Work Agreement to other parts of the job, especially engineering and cleaning, where the use of agency labour is rife.

This isn't about kicking the agency workers off the job. As always, the principle should be: "sack the agencies, not the workers!" We want all workers currently working on LU to be directly employed, with the same rights and benefits.

Strikes to defend the Core Work Agreement on fleet could be a launchpad for a wider campaign for direct employment elsewhere.

Tubeworker topics

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