London Underground has announced its schedule for closing every ticket office on the Tube, starting from early 2015.
It has done this despite the publication of a passenger survey conducted by independent watchdog London TravelWatch which shows the strength of public opposition to the closures.
TravelWatch says that its wider research, from 2013, “clearly demonstrated the strong feeling that passengers place significant value on the presence of ticket offices”. It also says that the data from its 2014 survey “indicates that ticket offices are more used by minority groups, and the loss of ticket offices could present a significant barrier to travel for the elderly and those who consider themselves to have disabilities in particular.
“Some passengers have also commented that they experience considerable difficulty in using ticket machines, especially if they have learning difficulties or dyslexia and the needs of these passengers will have to be further considered.”
Despite LU’s claims that its closures, which will be accompanied by drastic staffing cuts of nearly 1,000 posts, are about improving service, the public opposition shows that they are motivated by pro-austerity ideology driven by Boris Johnson’s City Hall.
Tube union RMT and campaign coalition Hands Off London Transport plans a series of demonstrations at Tube stations, including those hit by staffing cuts of up to 50%.
Shelter to strike over pay
Unite members employed by housing charity Shelter have voted 70% to 30% in favour of national strike action.
Strikes are scheduled for 16 to 18 December inclusive, and 12 to 16 January inclusive.
Shelter proposes to cut pay, up to £5,000 a year for new advice and support workers, and up to £3,000 a year for existing frontline staff.
Shelter is also proposing to create different pay scales for frontline and non-frontline staff. This would leave some Shelter workers earning £3,000 a year less than other staff on the same grade but in a different role.
The strike is the latest dispute to be triggered by the “contract culture” and “race to the bottom” which is now embedded in the so-called “not-for-profit” sector. In October workers at St Mungo’s Broadway struck against contract changes and won.
To win NHS or council contracts, “not for profit” employers cut back on rates of pay and training for their staff. Some employers do this before bidding for a contract, others do it after winning a contract. This “race to the bottom” means different employers seek to win contracts on the basis of the lowest bid – at the expense of their employees’ living standards, and quality of service provided.
At the same time, grotesquely large salaries are paid to senior managers and chief executives, as they are supposedly the ones doing the “real” work – putting together the bids which will win contracts.
The “not for profit” sector is turned from an agency which challenges inequality in society into a mechanism for reproducing and maintaining that inequality – by creating its own low-paid workforce, and by providing minimal “sticking plaster” services levels to their client groups.
Bosses argue decent terms and conditions for employees would mean worse services for clients, or even the loss of the contract. According to its Chief Executive, Shelter has “a simple but painful choice: keep the higher pay levels, cut our services and make some roles redundant, or maintain the number of people we help and reduce salaries for new staff.”
Shelter employees often work in small workplaces, making it easier for management to bully staff into not striking.
Trade unionists should rally round and support Shelter strikers, with financial support, practical support with leafletting and media campaigning as well as picket line visits.
Cleaners strike again
Cleaners employed by Interserve at London Waterloo train station struck again on Friday 5 December.
This follows two strikes last month in an ongoing dispute about racism and bullying from managers.
The dispute was sparked when a manager was overheard to say that the company should not employ black people.
The RMT union says bosses have refused to address the allegation through agreed procedures. The union also says Interserve has underpaid wages, as well as victimising, bullying and harassing staff.
Interserve bosses at Waterloo have struggled to maintain a skeleton cleaning service at the train station, even though they have bussed in agency cleaners from across the capital.
Interserve cleaners across the Bakerloo, Victoria and Central underground lines are due to be balloted over unpaid wages and management bullying.
London bus drivers balloted over pay
Unite is balloting over 20,000 bus drivers across different London bus companies over disparities in pay from company to company.
In a consultative ballot in November returned 96% in favour of strikes.
Bus drivers in the capital do not have a collective pay agreement, meaning pay is negotiated company by company leading to disparities. This results in pay gaps of over £2 an hour for new starters with pay varying from £9.30 to £11.46 an hour depending on the company.
Wayne King London regional officer for Unite said: “Pay on London buses has become a farce. You have drivers doing the same work, driving the same routes at the same time of day, but being paid different rates.
“Rather than one set of negotiations covering all of London’s bus drivers we have 18. It is not only inefficient but it is leading to pay inequality.”
The ballot closes on 18 December.