Monday, 1 September 2014

Rather than going on strike RMT has called on station staff to stop doing overtime and to refuse any further training.  Now the intended effects of the overtime ban are pretty straight forward, in advance of cutting 953 jobs some positions have become vacant when staff retire or leave but until the proposed changes come in they still have to be filled.  If those duties aren’t covered then some stations could be left short-staffed, if those stations are Section 12s and they fall below minimum staffing level they’d have to close.  That sounds quite serious but there have been overtime bans in the past and while they’ve led to some of the smaller open section stations being left without any staff I can’t remember a single Section 12 shutting.

I’ll admit I’m not entirely sure what effect the refusal to carry out training will have although I think the idea is that the SSs, SACRs and SAMFs who are supposed to mutate into CSMs and CSSs won’t be licensed to carry out the duties required of them when the proposed changes are introduced.  The only thing I can think of is a farmer unharnessing a horse from a plough in order to harness it to a cart but instead of obediently walking across the farmyard the horse lies down and refuses to move.  Does the farmer just keep pulling on the reins while repeatedly telling the horse that it needs to be “flexible” or does he have the brains to offer the horse a rather large bag of carrots?

Thursday, 28 August 2014

It seems that Central Line senior managers are still away on their hols as so far there’s been no further attempt to avert another strike, hopefully between unpacking their bags and shaking the sand out of their shoes they'll make time to talk to ASLEF over the next three weeks.  In the meantime there's trouble a-brewing over on the Northern Line where a TOp with 29 years on the job has been sacked for failing a breathalyser test.  Now that in itself wouldn’t be a big issue, we’ve lost a few TOps on the Central for breaches of LUL’s drugs & alcohol policy and while their departure was sad we all accepted that their dismissal was inevitable but in Alex McGuigan’s case there’s a twist.

Like a growing number of people in the UK he suffers from type 2 diabetes which the Tube’s own Occupational Health department admit can lead to a false reading on a breathalyser, making it appear that someone had alcohol in their system when they’d not been drinking.  LUL could have tested his urine sample which is used to look for substances other than alcohol but instead they’ve sacked him on the basis of the flawed breathalyser evidence.

Obviously RMT are fighting his corner but if management follow their usual policy of pig-headed inflexibility then we could see a strike on the Northern Line sometime before the end of the year.  We could see one over on the Piccadilly Line a lot sooner; RMT are holding a strike ballot over “cross line working” although I have no idea exactly what that means or whether ASLEF are also in dispute.  It certainly seems that at this moment a lot of TOps on a lot of lines are not happy bunnies.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

It seems that there was a belief among management - and from comments made on here certain RMT members - that ASLEF TOps were somehow adverse to going on strike, that many of the members who had defected from the RMT in order to avoid going on strike would also cross the picket line on this occasion and that as ASLEF TOps had worked when RMT were on strike in the past RMT TOps would do the likewise on Friday.  If that was the case then on Friday we disabused the hell out of them. 

During the RMT strikes apart from a gap from MAA to WHC we were running a service, on Friday at best there was WHC to EAB in the west with EPP to MIE in the east but that later shrank to EPP-LES and finally there were no service on the east end of the line at all.  One explanation of why so many RMT TOps worked during their own strikes is that they weren’t prepared to lose a day’s pay when the number of stations open suggested that plenty of station staff were unwilling to go on strike themselves whereas Friday’s strike was over issues that affected all Central Line TOps regardless of their affiliation. 

Okay, let’s get this straight, no one on our side wants a strike, we don’t actually want to lose a day’s pay, we’d be a lot happier if we could just get on with things but as management seem unwilling to negotiate we are left with little choice, the only alternative is accepting that management can change our terms and conditions whenever they feel like it.  We don’t want anything extra, we’re not striking for more money or more days off or free caviar and  chips at the canteens, we just want management to honour the agreements they made with the unions on a whole raft of issues.  We have a system, it wasn't broken but they chose to fix it. 

From mess room whispers it seems that one of the problems with the negotiations is that most of the senior managers responsible for this mess aren’t actually directly involved in the talks as they’re off on holiday.  When an agreement was reached the managers had to call someone on a beach somewhere who would then say that it was unacceptable.  Allegedly our new General Manager Chris Taggart doesn’t like unions and thinks all agreements should be discarded, like the new sheriff riding into town declaring that there was going to be a change around here, somehow forgetting that in those movies the townsfolk invariably descend on the sheriff’s office with flaming torches and a noose. 

Hopefully the effectiveness of Friday’s strike gives management cause to soften their hardline attitude, we held a strike on the Friday before Bank Holiday when plenty of our regular commuters were off, the next one will be on a Wednesday when everyone will be back.  Another thing to consider is that the strike may spread, the Piccadilly, District and Jubilee Lines all have their own separate grievances, they could also ask for a strike ballot and it wouldn’t be too hard to arrange all the strikes on the same day.  With RMT and TSSA increasingly unhappy with the negotiations on station staffing this could just keep getting bigger and bigger, perhaps this might not be the best time to prod the sleeping bear with a stick.

Hopefully over the next three weeks someone suddenly has a serious attack of sense but that doesn’t seem to be high on the list of attributes required for LUL managers compared to the ability to bury one’s head in the sand on a beach in Cancun.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Between endless free publicity for Cara Delevingne and regaling us with Evgeny Lebedev’s latest adventures someone at the Evening Standard finally noticed yesterday that there was trouble brewing on the Central Line.  Not that they did much more than regurgitate the Newham Recorder’s piece which was itself filched from the Morning Star whose current circulation consists of the members of the Communist Party of Britain and a dog called Kevin although I’m told it actually sells more on a Thursday thanks to its poetry column.

Yesterday's talks at ACAS seem to have been as unproductive as at previous meetings so both parties are back around the table again today with the clock ticking and I’m certainly getting the feeling that tomorrow I’m going to lose a day’s pay.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Yesterday’s meeting doesn’t appear to have been productive so today ASLEF and Central Line management will be taking the dispute to ACAS.  For myself that is a reason to be cheerful, usually ACAS tell LUL that they should abide by any existing agreements with the unions and by flouting those agreements they’ve been behaving like a collection of troublesome 8 year olds.

If things aren’t settled at ACAS then the strike on Friday will come as a bit of a shock to our passengers as it’s still being ignored by the major news networks.  I can only assume that either the media drones at 55 have decided that as its only one line it’s not worth their precious time or everyone has gone on holiday.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The Morning Star got in on the act but fell at the first hurdle by initially saying that the strike is on Thursday although it has since corrected it's error.  It gave comments from “London Underground’ general manager Lance Ramsey” who describes the strike as “unnecessary”.  While that sounds predictably management-like the Central and Waterloo & City Line general manager is Chris Taggart, there is a Lance Ramsay, not Ramsey, he’s actually Bakerloo Line general manager but at the moment he’s covering as head of the Bakerloo, Central and Victoria Lines.

Newham Recorder joined the party around 1pm, basically a "cut and paste" of the Morning Star  but at least they got Lance Ramsay's name right.

Monday, 18 August 2014

It appears that I wasn’t first to break the news, Auxsetreq announced it on their blog – I didn’t even know they had one – and ASLEF district organiser Finn Brennan made comments on his Twitter and Facebook.  Now ASLEF have something official up on their website and apparently talks will continue tomorrow.

Once again as soon as I hear anything further I will let you know.

Addenda 19:30

We have a winner, LBC are the first news agency to mention Friday's strike.  Let the games begin!!