Why are agreements so important? Because they give us protection in the workplace. It is our agreements - in the first place, our framework agreements - that ensure that our rosters are halfway civilised, that we can't work for hours on end without a break, that we can't be brought back to work without enough time to relax and sleep between shifts. Our framework agreements are what stand between us and management's wet dream of making us the 'Martini workforce' - any time, any place, anywhere.
Agreements are like trenches in a war. They mark the line we have reached in our battle with the other side. We do not retreat from them unless we have to, and we do not let holes appear in them.
If management were to maintain staffing levels, they would not need to weaken our agreements. Better still, if they reversed cuts and increased staffing, we could campaign and negotiate to improve those agreements and give ourselves more rights and protections.
But LU management's plan is the opposite: get the Olympics out of the way and cut jobs. And to cut jobs, they need to weaken the framework agreements. Why? So they can move us around like plastic soldiers on a battlefield map to cover the gaps left by their cuts.
Management see the Olympics as an opportunity to test-drive their plans to weaken the agreements. However much they say that any framework changes are "temporary", we can be sure that the company will come back for more. And if the unions go along with this, we can be equally sure that management will sniff blood and come after us with a vengeance.
That's why ASLEF's deal with management to break the drivers' agreements and have 9-hour turns at weekends is so irresponsible. The cash looks tempting, but it will be gone soon, leaving us to repent at leisure about the weapon handed to management. Similarly, if any of the other unions go along with framework changes, they will be inviting attacks. We are hearing rumours of Unite and TSSA indicating that they might do this, which we hope are not true. RMT's recent reps' meeting was very clear that it did not want framework changes, and its national executive has underlined this.
Moreover, we can not accept any notion that individuals can opt in or out of collective agreements. RMT members do not need to opt out of the ASLEF deal because the 'deal' is not an agreement with their union. We need to remember that agreements are collective - they do not apply just to individuals, but to workplaces, workforces and ways of working. For example, a roster needs to meet all the requirements of the framework agreement (sufficient rest between duties, not exceeding maximum duty lengths or number of days worked in a row etc). You can not have bits of it that break the framework so long as only 'volunteers' work those bits.
On a day-to-day basis in our workplaces, our union reps police our agreements. They work to ensure that no-one breaks them by, for example, exceeding overtime limits or not taking enough rest between duties. We don't say that it's OK for someone to do this so long as they were volunteers and were not forced. Why? Because the framework agreements protect not just the individual who has to abide by them, but everyone else as well.
Hold the line - our framework agreements are not for sale.