Aslef launches ballot

Published on: Tue, 11/02/2020 - 15:23

Aslef has announced a ballot of its members on London Underground, over pay and conditions. The ballot opens on 28 February, and closes on 9 March. Aslef is a minority union across LU as a whole, but a majority amongst drivers. One of its key demands in pay negotiations thus far has been for a driver-specific salary increase, to bring LU drivers’ pay in line with that of mainline train drivers. Along with all other unions organising in LU, Aslef has also demanded a reduction in the working week.

An Aslef statement said that the union could not “accept a sub-standard offer that gives our members no guarantee of a pay rise for the next two years and does nothing to reduce the working week or close the pay gap with other train operating companies.”

TSSA has already accepted LU’s latest offer, for a RPI+0.2% pay increase each year from 2019-2023. RMT and Unite remain in dispute.

Aslef’s ballot asks a pointed question of RMT, which has held back from balloting thus far. Tubeworker believes RMT should have balloted months ago; delaying has only made the challenge of delivering ballot thresholds across a large membership harder. But that challenge must now be met.

RMT will not be able to ballot its entire membership in the short timeframe Aslef has set for its own ballot, but it must launch a ballot as soon as possible.

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Only industrial action can force major concessions on LU pay/conditions

Published on: Tue, 21/01/2020 - 16:01

Our current deal on pay and conditions on London Underground expired in April 2019, so we’re the better part of year overdue. All four unions submitted claims based on a range of demands, including a reduction in the working week to 32 hours. Negotiations began formally in February 2019, and have continued for nearly a year. LU has proposed various offers, and at the last set of negotiations with our unions, in December, proposed an either/or offer: they want us to pick between two four year deals, one of which offers RPI + 0.2% pay rises in years one and four, and 1.4% pay rises and 30 minutes off the working week in years two and three (equivalent to three additional rest days per year). The second, newer offer, is a “pay only” deal, offering RPI + 0.2% pay increases in all four years, with no concessions on any other element of the unions’ claims. Both offers include a £750 flat-rate cash minimum in year one of the deal.

All unions had formally (and, in our view, rightly) rejected the former deal (the one including the reductions in the working week), primarily because, by decoupling the pay increase from RPI in years two and four, it risked amounting to a pay cut. But for many of us, that wasn’t the only objection; the deal also didn’t go anywhere near far enough in terms of improving work/life balance and guaranteeing more quality time away from work.

Discussions are now taking place within unions about the newer offer. Tubeworker believes the newer offer is also entirely unsatisfactory, as, while it guarantees (very-slightly) above inflation pay increases, it offers no improvements to working conditions. With these negotiations taking place in the run-up to a mayoral election, we have significant potential leverage. It would be a huge missed opportunity to not even attempt to take action to win concessions on working hours.

We maintain our view, which we have held all along and frequently reiterated, that our unions should ballot all members across LU for industrial action to win a better deal. That was always a challenge, due to restrictive anti-union laws and their arbitrary ballot threshold. Delays in launching a ballot have created additional challenges; a ballot needs preparation - carpeting the job with propaganda, regular workplace visits, generally stirring things up and giving members ownership over the campaign. All our unions should’ve been doing that work consistently since their pay claims were submitted, in early 2019, or ideally even earlier. At best it’s happened patchily and in a very stop-start way.

Union negotiators have harried LU bosses in talks, and pushed them on a number of issues. But without mass collective action by LU workers to stop the job, it was never going to be possible to secure major concessions. Each union will now be deciding its own strategy. As difficult a task as it may seem, we still think we need ballots. Not balloting effectively means accepting a substandard deal that meets none of our claims - what’s the point of discussing demands and submitting a pay claim if we just accept an offer that comes nowhere near them?

LU says its current offer is "final", but it also said its plans to extend train preparation schedules were fixed... until the threat of strikes by fleet workers forced their abandonment. It also said it had no money for an engineering fix for excessive track noise... until the threat of strikes by drivers led to the discovery of £10 million for new work on the track. Whatever happens, we need to learn lessons. First and foremost is to remind ourselves that no major improvements can be achieved without workers taking collective action.

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A reply to some critics

Published on: Fri, 17/01/2020 - 17:53

This image has been brought to our attention; it originates with some Aslef reps.

To clarify, Tubeworker is NOT an RMT publication. We are fiercely pro-union, but we are an independent rank-and-file bulletin, published by a socialist group, and not affiliated with any individual union on the job.

The quote on the right is profoundly misleading, as it implies that the sentence ends at "conditions". It's like quoting someone as having said "don't leave your house" when what they've actually said is, "don't leave your house without an umbrella when it's raining."

As anyone who takes the time to read the article on the left will see, it was making the very basic point that RMT, as an all-grades union, has a special responsibility to make all-grades arguments, and fight for any improvements to terms and conditions to be extended to all Tube workers, not just one grade.

We are aware that some people on the job think that different groups of workers have separate or special interests; we disagree. We think all of us who work on the Tube - directly employed or outsourced, and whatever job we do - share common interests, and should fight together to demand the levelling up of terms and conditions. It’s a shame some people don’t see it that way, but we’ll never make any apology for fighting for better, and equal, rights for all workers.

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Boxing Day? Equal pay!

Published on: Tue, 14/01/2020 - 22:58

Trains reps are discussing improved Boxing Day and NYE working arrangements for drivers with LU bosses.

Tubeworker supports any group of workers negotiating towards, and taking action to win, improvements to their conditions; we also believe all workers across LU should be entitled to the same benefits. It’s not fair that drivers get improved payments for working Boxing Day or NYE, when that’s just a normal working day for station staff and many other workers (including cleaners and other outsourced workers!).

As the only all-grades union on the job, RMT has a special responsibility to raise these arguments and not sign off on any deal to improve drivers’ terms and conditions without pushing LU to put mechanisms in place to extend that deal to other groups of workers.

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LU pay/conditions and stations fightback: get moving with ballots!

Published on: Sat, 23/11/2019 - 16:31

The longer our unions go without launching ballots over LU pay/conditions, the more momentum we hand to the bosses.

Delaying only benefits the employer. RMT announced an aspiration to have its ballot ready by the end of November; members have a right to expect these aspirations to be followed through.

Negotiations have secured important concessions but it’s workers’ action, our ability to stop the job, that will force real movement from the bosses. The same goes for ongoing issues on stations and revenue over workplace violence and understaffing. There’s a strong mood across the job for a fightback over these issues, and several branches, and the RMT London Transport Regional Council, have now passed policies calling for disputes and ballots.

We need to get moving. Khan faces re-election in May 2020, and if we’re not in a position early in the new year to announce a programme of strikes leading up to that election, we’ll be missing a golden opportunity.

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LU pay fight: ballot now!

Published on: Fri, 11/10/2019 - 12:10

LU has now issued its “full and final” offer in the ongoing pay talks. The first thing to note is that “full and final” is meaningless jargon. The offer's only final when we accept it, or we give up the fight to improve it!

They're offering a four-year deal, with RPI + 0.2%, or £750 (whichever is higher), in year one, 1.4% plus a 30-minute reduction in the working week in year two, RPI + 0.2% in year three, and 1.4% plus a 30-minute reduction in the working week in year four. The bosses calculate that this reduction in the working week would equate to six additional banked rest days.

Remember: our demand is for a 32-hour week. We should be aiming for something more like an additional rest day every week, not one every two months! We also can't accept pay increases of 1.4% which are likely to be below inflation.

Tubeworker has been arguing for some time that our unions should have launched ballots for action. LU is not going to make meaningful concessions except under the pressure of action, so why the delay?

We've got a challenge ahead of us in terms of clearing the thresholds of the anti-union laws, but we should take courage from the fact that our last all-grades ballot, conducted in 2015 before the thresholds were implemented, would've cleared them had they been in place.

The longer we delay in balloting, the more we send signals of weakness and lack-of-confidence both to the employer and our own membership. If we want to win a better deal, we have to take action. It's a simple as that.

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LU’s latest offer still unacceptable: ballot for action now!

Published on: Sun, 18/08/2019 - 22:24

Ongoing pay talks have yielded a new offer from the company. They’re proposing a two-year deal, with a year one pay increase of RPI + 0.2%, with an RPI + 0.2% increase in year two minus the cost of implementing a 30-minute reduction in the working week.

This is entirely unacceptable for a number of reasons. Firstly, the pay increase itself is inadequate, and insulting in the context of pay rises of up to 74% handed to senior managers. Secondly, we can’t accept the idea that we should have to finance a reduced working week from our own wages rather than the company’s profits. Thirdly, a 30-minute reduction in the working week simply isn’t enough to be meaningful. We need hours of our week, not minutes. Finally, the offer doesn’t address our other demands, including equalisation of staff travel facilities, a minimum flat-rate pay increase, or the equalisation of the CSA grade.

For all these reasons, we have to push on with plans to ballot for action to win a better deal.

However, the offer is, in a small but significant way, progress. It represents the first concrete acknowledgment by our bosses that they can’t settle with us without making some concession on working hours.

Their acknowledgment of that gives us an opportunity to push forward. We have to increase the pressure by balloting for strikes.

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“Go it alone”?

Published on: Thu, 25/07/2019 - 11:16

Tubeworker isn’t linked to any one union on the job, and we argue consistently for unity and common action between all unions on LU.

That aspiration for unity means it’s always disappointing when one union puts out material attacking another in a way that’s divisive or even straightforwardly inaccurate. Robust criticism and debate about strategy and tactics is one thing; misleading workers about another union’s record is quite another.

There’s a new Aslef leaflet doing the rounds on the job that declares its “time to go it alone” on pay and conditions, allegedly because RMT isn’t prepared to fight for drivers! It attacks RMT for raising the demand for the consolidation of the CSA grade, and goes on to claim that RMT “agreed” the introduction of the CSA2 grade.

This is untrue. In fact, the post-Fit for the Future grading system was imposed by the company, despite union opposition. RMT fought against Fit for the Future in its entirety, and while some significant concessions were gained from management, ultimately that battle was lost and the new grades were imposed. It is outrageous for Aslef to claim RMT positively agreed to the creation of the CSA2 grade.

The Aslef leaflet says “we only care about drivers”. What an illuminating insight into the sectional mindset! Not “we only organise drivers”, or “we only represent drivers”, but “we only care about drivers”! In other words, other workers on the railway can get stuffed!

This approach is divisive and only benefits the bosses. We urge rank-and-file Aslef members to challenge their reps over the spreading of these inaccuracies. We’ll be far more powerful if we don’t “go it alone”, but rather fight together to take united action.

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Ballot on pay and conditions imminent

Published on: Tue, 18/06/2019 - 11:58

RMT is now preparing to ballot members on LU for industrial action over pay and conditions. With all three other unions having also rejected LU’s latest offer, it’s likely they’ll ballot too.

Restrictive anti-union laws mean we need to get a 50% turnout and at least 40% of all those balloted voting yes to take legal action. So make sure your contact details are up to date with your union so your ballot paper gets sent to the right place.

We need to be prepared to take serious action. A token one-day strike is unlikely to be enough to budge the bosses. Guards on South Western Railway are currently striking for five days to defend their jobs; their resolve should inspire us!

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Pay and conditions fight update

Published on: Tue, 28/05/2019 - 17:15

LU has now made a revised offer on pay and conditions, offering RPI + 0.1% this year, and RPI + 0.2% next year. There has been no movement on any union demand: for a reduced working week, for a flat-rate minimum for lower-paid staff, and more.

This offer needs to be completely rejected, and a dispute declared.

No-one should be in any doubt that strikes will be required to win a decent deal. We need to build for that now, and preparing for the hard work of achieving the required threshold in the ballot.

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