LT Health & safety

Practising social distancing

Published on: Thu, 26/03/2020 - 21:42

It looks like some local management is starting to take the issue of social distancing seriously.

At Stockwell all CSAs are off the gateline and social distancing between the mess and control rooms. The WAGs are open, the POMs are being left. No one should need to be coughed on while they help someone top up their oyster.

Now the unions have agreed minimum numbers with management every station should now do the same and station staff should not allow any pressure to do otherwise.

We'll keep the service open — but on our terms.

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Station staff: take action to ensure safe distancing!

Published on: Wed, 25/03/2020 - 14:01

We're hearing some reports of local managers insisting that all CSAs continue to work on the gateline, despite the difficulties that presents for ensuring social distancing.

If this doesn't stop, we urge station staff to take matters into their own hands. Work out a rotation between you, and practise safe social distancing by removing to other parts of the station, to the control room, or mess rooms - wherever you can maintain safe distancing from other staff and passengers.

Section 44 of the 1996 Employment Rights Act gives all workers the right to refuse work, and remove themselves to a place of safety, if they are being asked to do something that puts them in "serious and imminent danger". If managers make us work in a way that prevents safe distancing, workers can take action based on this legislation.

We urge CSSs and CSMs to put local arrangements in place, including rotation of staff, to ensure distancing and minimisation of risk.

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Power down the POMs!

Published on: Tue, 24/03/2020 - 13:05

An Employee Bulletin dated 23 March, from Brian Woodhead (the senior director for LU stations, he of 74% pay rise fame...) gives some "advice on social distancing in our stations."

This advice includes: "Avoid signing into the POM [Passenger Operated Machine, i.e., ticket machine] yourself."

Since the start of the crisis, unions have demanded POMs be switched off. Having either staff or passengers using a touch screen risks spreading the virus. There is no good reason for the POMs to remain on. If senior management is now telling station staff we should "avoid" touching them anyway, why not just switch them off?

If LU won't act, frontline staff on stations will need to take action ourselves.

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Fight rogue managers

Published on: Sat, 21/03/2020 - 17:57

Word reaches Tubeworker HQ of rogue managers throwing their weight around.

Staff who are self-isolating have had messages from managers telling them they “don’t meet the criteria”, and pressuring them to come back to work. It's another example of the trend we're all very familiar with... managers deciding they're medical experts.

These managers need to back off. All workers must be able to follow public health advice in full.

RMT has issued some useful advice for its members on this issue.

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Safe staffing during closures

Published on: Sat, 21/03/2020 - 17:53

We’ve heard stories of AMs trying to babysit closed Section 12 stations with CSAs, or remove staff from them entirely. Swift intervention by local and Tier 2 reps ensured a plan to babysit Bakerloo Line stations with CSAs was quashed.

If trains are running, even closed stations need properly-licensed staff (i.e., CSS or above). They're needed to deal with any incidents, and book on contractors. This must be non-negotiable.

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Keep your distance

Published on: Sat, 21/03/2020 - 16:35

While operational training is still going ahead, it’s unclear how the company plans to maintain social distancing on the front of a train cab. Instructors on a number of lines are already refusing to take anyone else in their cab at the current time. Tubeworker thinks they are right to refuse. The unions are meeting bosses on Monday to put this to them. But whatever the company wants Tubeworker thinks instructors should just refuse any cab rides or support for trainees in the cab environment. If that means sending trainees home on full pay then the company should do it.

In the meantime Ashfield House and other facilities are remaining open for classroom learning. If a single member of a class goes into self isolation there should be a guarantee that any training that is suspended or deferred is done with no loss of pay, particularly for workers who are not existing LUL employees and so cannot be expected to work operationally before their training is complete.

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Reduced service imposed: fight for workers' control

Published on: Wed, 18/03/2020 - 20:36

LU has announced a number of measures as part of its response to the Covid-19 crisis, including suspending Night Tube and the Waterloo and City line, and "temporarily closing stations" (although it hasn't yet said which).

Emergency measures are necessary; suspending Night Tube was one of the demands in our proposed "Emergency Plan", and was formally submitted to LU by the RMT. LU may now ask NT workers to work outside of their contracted hours to supply staffing shortages through the week; Tubeworker reminds our NT worker readers that such measures will be strictly voluntary. LU cannot make you work outside of your contract.

We also need to demand workers' control over operational decision making. Frontline staff should make the calls about which stations to keep open and which to close - not managers who are probably all working from home by now anyway.

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Covid-19: our emergency plan

Published on: Sun, 15/03/2020 - 15:46

With the government coming under increasing criticism for its slapdash approach to the Covid-19 outbreak, our safety depends on us putting forward our own emergency plan to protect our and our passengers' health.

As the situation develops, necessary measures may change, but right now, we demand that our employers (and our ultimate employer, the Mayor of London), do the following without delay:

  • increase cleaning standards to the level necessary to minimise risk
  • take control of all TfL operations, including cancelling private contracts and bringing services, especially cleaning, in-house
  • guarantee that all transport staff, whether directly or indirectly employed, can stay off work if following government guidance, with no threat of disciplinary action or loss of pay
  • take serious measures to reduce unnecessary social contact: likely to include: reducing the service; suspending Night Tube; shutting multi-use touchscreen devices such as ticket machines (and therefore allowing people to travel without tickets); congestion control; allowing staff to work from home where possible
  • demand the restoration of the government grant to TfL, plus emergency funding to deal with the crisis and associated loss of income
  • establish a monitoring committee, including representatives of passenger groups and trade unions, to sit in permanent session during this crisis to scrutinise information and recommend necessary actions.

Of these, the last is particularly important, as it allows us to keep up with a rapidly-changing situation and to assert the right of working people - workers and passengers - to scrutinise and drive the policies that directly affect us.

We want our unions to put these demands to the employers - and ultimately, the Mayor. But this is an issue for everyone, so we can build support for it among the travelling public, and the wider labour movement.

With the Labour Party having suspended all meetings, there is a danger of the Mayor keeping himself a safe distance from accountability to the movement. So it would be particularly useful to ask Labour Party members and postholders to endorse these demands, to increase pressure on the Mayor to act.

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Covid-19 and us

Published on: Thu, 12/03/2020 - 13:52

In the midst of what is now officially a pandemic, it's unsurprising that Covid-19 and its impacts are dominating discussion on the job.

LU has agreed that anyone self-isolating with no symptoms will be categorised as on special leave, rather than off sick. Anecdotally, local managers seem to be recording people who are self-isolating with symptoms as unavailable, or on special leave, rather than "off sick" too. That's positive, as a categorisation of "sick" could lead to people being penalised.

For example, we all know stories of managers using the ambiguity in the sick pay policy (which says that, for those with less than a year's service, company sick pay can be paid for nine weeks at managerial discretion) to get away without paying. Will newer staff be financially punished if they develop symptoms? There needs to be a clear and consistent policy across the board: all staff, regardless of length of service, must be paid full company sick pay from day one of absence/isolation. Under no circumstances should any Covid-related absence be counted as an "item" for the purposes of the attendance and discipline policies.

Questions have been asked about whether LU/TfL are taking sufficient precautions, given that Palestra remains open despite the confirmation of a case of the virus there. As the pandemic continues, shutting down large office buildings must be considered.

Sadiq Khan had a photo-op at London Bridge station to announce the fact that ABM cleaners had been given new anti-viral chemicals to disinfect station surfaces. Great... but why has it taken so long to implement this? And how are ABM staff meant to cope with a new cleaning regime and increase workload when their numbers have been slashed? ABM has no company sick pay scheme, meaning any ABM cleaner who develops symptoms or needs to self-isolate will only receive Statutory Sick Pay; far from enough to live on. Company sick pay needs to be extended to all workers on LU, directly-employed and outsourced.

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No cutting corners on familiarisation!

Published on: Wed, 04/03/2020 - 16:32

Station familiarisations, a legally-required procedure that everyone working on a station must undertake and which must be carried out by a resident CSS or CSM, are extremely important. CSAs on the Special Requirements Team (SRT) work across multiple stations, and are on average familiarised at 15-20 stations every six months so they can effectively respond and work at those stations.

Bank/Monument, a sprawling and entirely underground complex, has arguably the most complicated station footprint on the underground. It has numerous particular issues, specific to it as a station, not encountered elsewhere.

Two weeks ago, Customer Service Supervisors (CSSs) in the SRT had their duties suddenly changed and were instructed to go to Bank to be familiarised. They were then told that, the following day, they would be familiarising CSAs at Bank.

Reps were made aware and swiftly responded with obvious concerns. A CSS who does not work at a station should not be expected to familiarise other staff to work there. This should apply for any station, but especially one as complicated as Bank. If Bank's local CSSs and CSMs are so stretched that they are unable to familiarise staff there, the solution is to increase the staffing level at Bank, not offload familiarisation duties onto the SRT.

Clearly, the cuts made under Fit for the Future were too deep, to the point that staff do not have the resources to perform their duties. Prior to Fit for the Future, SRT staff were strictly required to have two full days of familiarisation at Bank before they could work there. Since Fit for the Future, this decline first to a single day, and now to just a few hours.

The system is failing Bank station on a safety level, and now it is affecting SRT, with this whole issue potentially spilling over to other stations if this procedure sets a precedent. To this end, it cannot be allowed to move forward and must be stopped.

But the issue does not end here. What this clearly highlights is an overall drop in recognition of the importance of familiarisations. A audit of station familiarisations should be strongly considered, with the amount of time spent on familiarisations looked at closely. All station staff have the right to a comprehensive familiarisation, not a corner-cutting walkaround after which a form is shoved in our hands which we're expected to sign. Once again, if there is not enough CSS and CSM time available to conduct full familiarisations, then quite simply we need more CSSs and CSMs.

If this issue isn't addressed, it could lead to a serious safety incident.

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