Stations 35-Hour Week 2004-6

A Shorter Working Week?

Published on: Mon, 29/05/2006 - 15:54

Well it’s been nearly 4 months since the new rosters were imposed, ahem I mean implemented, on a grateful LUL workforce!

The SWW was heralded as a great deal for staff but in reality that is far from the truth for a lot of staff.

Who in their right mind would envy CSAs at Wembley Park and their roster? They work a 13-week roster and although on paper they an average of 37.5 hours a week, in reality during their roster they can work 7 days in a row working a staggering 59hrs 45 minutes!

So much for work-life balance! It is time for staff to make a stand and encourage the unions to change some of these ill-thought-out and staff-unfriendly rosters. We know the rosters were driven by 'business needs', but staff have needs too. So let’s put a smile back on the faces of our hardworking workforce.

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Customer Led?

Published on: Mon, 13/03/2006 - 20:21

Question: When is a customer-led organisation not a Customer led organisation?

Answer: When that customer-led organisation is London Underground Ltd!

Just over a month has elapsed since the new Shorter Working Week rosters were imposed on / accepted by (depending on your point of view) the majority of the 44 groups of stations on London Underground.

One of the consequences resulting from the implementation of these new rosters has been greatly reduced Ticket Office window opening times especially at stations outside zones 1&2.

These times were apparently based on and dictated by “Business Needs” whatever LUL deems that to be. In short, LUL are sticking two fingers up at both customers and staff.

A prime example of these new Ticket office opening times are on stations located in the leafy suburbs of the North end of the Metropolitan Line.

The outcome of the new rosters has been a reduction in full time rostered and reserve SAMF staff, more part time rostered and reserve SAMF staff (positions which are difficult to fill) and ludicrous ticket office opening times which are not customer- or even sometimes staff friendly!

Ticket Offices opening times for some of these stations means that on a Monday to Friday they are shut after 10.30 am for the rest of the day (small insufficient concession of opening for a couple of hours in the afternoon has been given to some stations but this is a pointless exercise). Some Ticket Offices close during the day then reopen for a few hours and then are closed again after 7pm and at weekends some Ticket Offices are only open for a minimum of two hours and some don’t even open at all!

Staff have been told that these opening times are set in stone by the powers that be from the Dark Tower of 55 Broadway and must be strictly adhered to.

Customers are expected to do the following: use the ticket machines, adjust their purchasing patterns by travelling when Ticket Offices are open, use alternative outlets ie. newsagents, the internet etc or perhaps they could just stay at home (the last was made up and could be put down to flippancy!).

Now the North end of the Metropolitan Line is unique for many reasons and one of these reasons is the fact that Ticket Offices from stations Rickmansworth to Amersham sell a lot of concessionary tickets for Railcard holders which cannot be purchased from ticket machines or are compatiable with the wondrous Oyster card system!!

So London Underground has managed to alienate part of its customer base already and obviously this hasn’t gone down too well with them. Fortunately the customer-orientated staff have kindly been giving out Customer Services number and encouraging customers to complain. Bravo!

To add to this farce, stations have Ticket Office qualified staff sitting in Ticket Offices when they are closed (for personal safety reasons) having to tell customers that they have to purchase their tickets from the Passenger Operated machines because they are forbidden to sell tickets outside the designated opening times! You couldn’t script this better if you tried.

Obviously, irate customers need somebody to get irate with. Mmmmm, we wonder who that might be? Yes the good old frontline station staff as usual.

Logic dictates that if you can’t always buy your ticket at the start of your journey then you’ll expect to be able to buy it at the end of your journey with no problems? Wrong! Central London Ticket Offices especially Fare paid windows are being inundated with customers who can’t get their tickets from where they have travelled from so this means queues at busy stations.

However because SAMF jobs have been reduced even in Central London because of the rosters, overtime is being given out to cope with the queues!!!

So this must surely mean that stations don’t have sufficient staff on the rosters to cope and that SAMFs are still needed?

Well perhaps it can be concluded that these rosters, and these Ticket Office opening times, are neither customer- or staff friendly and anybody who believes that they are should try working them or seek help.

Things must change for the better but the only way to do that is by standing up to management and being prepared to fight for it.

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Thirteen mistakes

Published on: Mon, 30/01/2006 - 15:12

Before listing 13 key mistakes that Tubeworker thinks that RMT made during the stations shorter working week campaign, we need to make a few things clear. The blame for the cuts in staffing levels lies squarely with management, and behind them, the Mayor. RMT at least fought the cuts, whereas TSSA never even got out of the starting blocks (no change there, then). The existence of two unions to start with doesn’t help.

And let’s face it, we have finally got our 35-hour week, no-one has got a P45, and full-time staff now have 10½ weeks off each year.

None of the union’s mistakes is an excuse for scabbing, or for leaving the union. Instead, they are reasons to get more members and get more involved, so that we can be more effective in future.

Everyone knows that RMT’s campaign was flawed. If we do not look at these mistakes, then we will be doomed to repeat them next time round.

1. RMT painted up the original deal instead of telling its members the truth. RMT should have said: “It is a step forward to gaining a 35-hour week with no overall job losses, and it gives you 52 days off a year, so we recommend you vote for it. However, it also contains a re-rostering process which management will probably use to attack staffing levels. Vote for it now, but stand by to fight over its implementation.”

2. Having got the deal voted through, the union then seemed to disappear into negotiations without keeping the members informed. There should have been regular reports and updates.

3. Union officials spent too long in meetings, not long enough in the workplace. One problem here is full-time release, about which more elsewhere. Some level one reps organised local meetings and tried to get the negotiators along to report to members, but with limited success. Workplace meetings should have been organised systematically, and with the full support of the union.

4. RMT should have sounded the alarm about the negotiations sooner. It became clear quite early on that management were not negotiating in good faith. Many of the level one meetings were a joke. Yet the union continued to act as though everything could be resolved in talks.

5. The union should have sought to involve other grades earlier on. On the Piccadilly line, RMT stations reps drafted petitions for drivers and RCIs to sign opposing the cuts in station staffing levels - this could have been repeated elsewhere. Unfortunately, proposals from rank-and-file reps to involve other grades were initially dismissed by the union’s regional leadership, only to re-surface very late in the day with a last-ditch attempt to get solidarity action.

6. There should have been a campaign to publicise the issue and win support. As soon as it became clear that there were drastic staffing cuts that would affect passenger safety and service, the union should have produced leaflets, held public meetings, informed other trade unions etc. It did not. By the time we went on strike, there was still no leaflet for the public, which not only weakened our support in the face of hostile media coverage, but also demoralised workers. This should have been an issue – especially after the 7th July bombings – on which the public backed us. Instead, the union allowed the Mayor and the media to turn public opinion against us.

7. We should have gone into dispute earlier. Leaving it until late in the year meant that momentum was lost and people’s patience was beginning to wear thin. If you trumpet a deal as brilliant, then disappear from view for a year negotiating its implementation, then emerge from the talks and announce the need for a strike, then you miss out a lot of the groundwork that needs to be done to make that strike effective.

8. Striking on New Year’s Eve was a mistake. Our industrial action should be aimed at hurting the bosses, not other working-class people. Yes, there was an issue about the company expecting station staff to work without bonuses whilst other grades got extra dosh, but that issue was not worth the grief we caused ourselves by striking on that day.

9. The New Year’s Eve strike was poorly-organised.

10. There was not enough leadership and support for drivers, signallers and other grades to refuse to work on safety grounds during the stations strikes.

11. The union allowed management to divide the workforce. The way management sought to implement the deal created winners and losers. RMT should have told the winners about the losers and urged them to support each other.

12. The union did not appear to have a thought-out strategy of how to pursue this issue. That’s a constant problem with RMT – it holds talks, then uses strikes as protest gestures.

13. These mistakes having made the fight go a little off the rails, the union leadership then panicked and convinced itself that it needed to get out of the dispute as quick as possible. So it negotiated an inadequate deal.

Tubeworker topics

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Tube station staff endorse inadequate deal

Published on: Sat, 28/01/2006 - 16:10

RMT’s stations membership have voted by about 5:1 (1,250ish to 250ish) to accept the deal brokered by LUL management and the union’s leadership. In doing so, it has ended the dispute over the staffing cuts, and those cuts will now go ahead.

So, why did members vote to give up this fight? A few reasons:

  • Not enough information had gone around the job telling people what was going on with the cuts. Some people voted Yes because the rosters for their location are OK and they don’t know how bad they are elsewhere.
  • Members feel demoralised by the mistakes made over the last year, the hostile media coverage, and the PR hari-kari of striking on New Year’s Eve.
  • When we act as a united, coherent, confident workforce, then there is a strong sense of solidarity that makes people stick up for their colleagues as well as themselves. But when the union starts to back down and show weakness, then that breaks down the solidarity and people are more inclined to vote in their own narrow interests, and so vote Yes if they do not personally lose out under the new rosters.
  • When you have not been involved in running a dispute, or kept informed of its progress, then you often don’t feel up to judging a deal yourself, and accept the recommendation of your leadership.
  • Voting No meant voting to step up strike action, knowing that action would be led by a leadership which did not want to fight. Some of us voted No anyway, but it is understandable why others did not.
  • We have been fighting for a 35-hour-week for years, people are running out of patience, so some people were prepared to accept it at a greater cost that we should have had to.

Where does this leave us? Down, but not quite out. There will now be another look at the rosters, and a ‘safety validation’ process. Management probably intend to simply go through the motions with these, and just give us a handful of posts back as a token gesture, feeling that the pressure from the union is now off. If we can find ways of putting some pressure on, then maybe we can force their hand to concede more.

Reps and activists will also need to counter anti-union sentiment from some people on the job, and persuade people to stay in the union and fight. It is worth remembering that while RMT may have messed up the fight against staffing cuts, it has won us a 35-hour week, with 52 days off each year, and the TSSA, through its spineless inactivity, has not only won us nothing, but has actively helped management.

We also need to identify where the unions went wrong in this campaign, learn the lessons, and fight for changes that will ensure that it does not make these mistakes again. About which Tubeworker will blog over the weekend!

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Brief report on last Thursday’s mass meeting

Published on: Fri, 27/01/2006 - 14:59

About 60 people there, three-quarters of them station staff, the rest other grades. So an OK turnout, but not as ‘mass’ as a mass meeting might have been. Had it been held before the National Executive had decided what to do with LUL’s offer, then loads more people would have come, because they would have seen a point in coming to a meeting that might actually affect what the union did. As it was, the meeting simply discussed what the union had already done. Although the referendum was still going on, the leadership had pretty much cast the die already.

Bob Crow basically delivered an ultimatum. You can reject this deal if you like, but you would then have to have an indefinite all-out strike, lose most of the union’s membership, starve yourselves, re-mortgage your house and sell your children into slavery. (OK, that’s a slight exaggeration, but you get the message.) Other platform speeches were a mix of the patronising and the honest-but-defeatist.

Most contributions from the floor of the meeting opposed the deal, for reasons that Tubeworker has already gone into at length.

Everyone knows that the union has made a series of mistakes during this campaign, but after this meeting, Tubeworker felt that the union’s leadership is making rank-and-file members and activists pay the price for its own mistakes.


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We've Started So We Should Finish

Published on: Thu, 19/01/2006 - 15:08

... as Magnus Magnusson might say.

When the union embarks on a campaign, it has to see it through. Station staff - including some of LUL's lowest-paid grades - sacrificed two days' pay to act not just in their own interests, but in the interests of colleagues and passengers. Our union should respect that sacrifice and not settle for small beer.

That doesn't mean that we go on and on and on and on, never agreeing any compromise deals. But it does mean that we should go as far as our fighting capacities can take us.

But RMT has a bad habit of dipping its toes into the cold water of strike action, then running for cover. It's a bit like the opening sequence of the Monkees.

(It should be said that the woeful TSSA is too terrified to even look at the water, let alone get its little toes anywhere near the water's edge.)

"Come on, Tubeworker, examples please!" ... "So you reckon you've got a better way of doing it, eh?". Click here.

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Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 20/01/2006 - 20:01

The latest yellow peril looks suspiciously like a "copy" and "paste" version of a management internal bulletin on the shorter Working Week, and the Negotiators again look to save face. Well its time to see who's who. The underlying feeling is dismay at the way this is going in the light of the recent SOLID STRIKES. My own feeling is that a challenge needs to be made to ther functional council, on top of a call for a NO vote. Some would say this is playing into management hands and showing a lack of unity, the basis of the union itself. I disagree it would send a clear message that the minority who are negotiating are not fully representing the views of the MAJORITY of the union. I am sure there will be dissent at this cop-out referendum and stalling to let the rosters come in, coupled with trying to put the onus for any deal made back on the members, not those who have negotiated it. So anyone looking to stand up, and speak up please do so, it would be shameful to sit by and let this go by unchallenged, as any future negotiations will be in these same negotiator/management hands, with probably the same outcomes, so who best to represent us but ourselves. I hope I have said what many are thinking.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 21/01/2006 - 20:28

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I agree. And also, I think we should do away with full-time release for functional reps. If they had had to spend, say, half their time on duty on stations over the last year, they would have been more in touch with what members felt, and would have been more aware of the need to keep people informed.

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RMT Tube station staff: Vote No to management’s inadequate offer

Published on: Wed, 18/01/2006 - 11:50

Vote to Keep Up the Fight

RMT is asking its members to accept an offer from management which amounts to giving up our fight against staffing cuts for a few small concessions. Tubeworker urges readers to vote “No”.

If we accept this – if we call off our fight – then management will go through the motions of a ‘safety validation’ which might restore one SA here, one SS there, but which will not reverse the drastic cuts in staffing levels. Why would they reverse them if we take the pressure off?!

You don’t have to vote how the Executive wants you to – look at the example of DLR.

At least the Executive has made clear that if we reject this deal, they will organise more action. And the fact that the ballot of other grades is going ahead indicates that this is serious. But what we needed was to step up the action, not call it off.

The action we have taken so far were our first ever stations-only strikes. And station staff showed that we were up to the fight. Where it was strong, it was very very strong. On some groups, there was virtually no scabbing; on others, RMT memberhip has increased to its highest level in memory.

There are weak areas too. That’s what happens when the union keeps people in the dark about the issues for a year. But that can be put right – with more information, and with staff from the groups with bad rosters visiting other groups and explaining to their workmates why we need to fight. If we explain the issues, (some) people can be persuaded not to scab. Reps and activists have already convinced people who came in last time to strike next time.

The union should try to pull everyone up to the level of the strongest, rather than drag us down to the level of the weakest.

The RMT has made mistakes in this dispute so far, eg, striking on New Year’s Eve, not producing a leaflet for the public, not properly co-ordinating drivers to refuse to work on safety grounds. But that can not become an excuse to give up on a fight that still needs to be fought.

Management’s offer and what it means:

  • Restore half a dozen full-time SA posts on two groups. Nothing on any other groups.
  • Carry out a ‘safety validation’ process that might restore some other posts (or might not), and that reports several weeks after the new rosters have been imposed. Safety validating the stable door after the horse has bolted.
  • Some other minor concessions.

It’s not good enough.

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Media Frenzy

Published on: Wed, 18/01/2006 - 10:52

Talk about a rough ride in the press! You’d think we were planning mass murder, not fighting for staff and passenger safety.

The BBC’s reports sounded like they were lifted straight from an LUL press release, claiming that you “might not have noticed” there was a strike on cos disruption was so minimal. The Evening Standard, on the other hand, reported “chaos”, not because they want to talk up the effectiveness of our action, but because dramatic headlines sell newspapers and serve their campaign to demonise us.

Amidst the reporting of the strikes, finding an honest account of our reasons for taking action was like finding a needle in a haystack. The media reduced it to a spat about whether an agreement had been broken and by whom, or a difference of opinion as to how best to carry out displacements. That’s hardly going to excite the interests of passengers, is it? No – it’s much more likely to make them think that they are pawns in a fight between bosses and unions. But that’s the point of reporting it like that, isn’t it?

How about telling people that LUL is trying to cut staffing levels at some stations so drastically that your safety will be in danger? And that their refusal to budge on this has forced the union to turn to its last resort of striking? No, no, no. Readers/viewers might sympathise with the workers. We can’t have that. Honesty isn’t always the best policy, you know.

The Evening Standard gave over its column space to Tim O’Toole to put his views, but Tubeworker didn’t notice any such favour extended to station staff.

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Strange Management Behaviour During Strikes (part 756)

Published on: Wed, 18/01/2006 - 08:47

It's New Year's Eve, and Bank station is closed, the Waterloo & City line suspended. Management tell the signaller on duty to send a train to Bank, carrying the precious cargo of a DSM and half a dozen "station staff". Half and hour later, the station re-opens.

Surely the company has not worked out a way to familiarise staff with the largest station on the network in just thirty minutes?! Of course not, the mere suggestion is ridiculous.

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Why Does The Media Hate Us?

Published on: Tue, 17/01/2006 - 17:12

The media, both print and screen, gave us a real battering during the station strikes. While activists are right to feel angry at the hypocrisy and shamelessness of the TV and newspaper barons, we should not be surprised.

Whatever the sympathies of individual journalists, those who make the real decisions in the media are not on our side. They are an integral part of the same ruling class that runs private business, and indirectly runs both LUL and the government. The big media conglomerates are connected by a thousand ties to British and multinational industry, and their top brass are connected to other bosses by a thousand more. That’s why even the less blatantly reactionary papers never put a working-class view, and why the press gears up for attack whenever the labour movements organises a fight.

This is “freedom of the press” under capitalism - the right of the rich to monopolise the means of news-dissemination and opinion-forming through private ownership of newspapers, TV stations etc. Although the freedom of speech we have in Britain is much better than what exists in military or Stalinist dictatorships, and should be defended against the bosses’ attempts to reduce it, it is no more genuine free speech than our parliamentary system is genuine democracy.

In the short term, we can argue for reforms like limitation of the number of newspapers any individual or company can own. But replacing giant media corporations with slightly smaller ones will do nothing to give the labour movement and working-class communities real access and control.

In the early days of the Russian revolution, before working-class power was shattered by foreign intervention and smothered by the rising Stalinist bureaucracy, the media was taken into public ownership and facilities allocated to unions, parties and other organisations according to their level of support. Only such a democratic, socialist solution can guarantee a workers’ voice in the media.

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