Saturday, 16 May 2015

All quiet on the pay talks/Night Tube front with absolutely no movement from either side since LUL slightly upped their offer a month ago.  On the issue of pay they are sticking to the line that we’ve had above inflation pay rises while others have had pay freezes but in that respect we are no different to our fellow ASLEF members working for the mainline TOCs.   You could argue that they are private sector while we are public sector but the amount of taxpayers’ money pumped into the TOCs makes any difference between us and them debatable.

On Night Tube they are offering us far less to permanently change our agreements in order to run 24 hours twice a week than they did to temporarily run an hour or two later during the Olympics. LUL did suggest getting ACAS involved but the unions didn’t see the point of simply changing the venue, the offer is derisory and if our union reps were to recommend accepting the deal as it stands the members would reject it.

As far as staffing goes we are still being told that at some point in the future depots will get to choose either part-timers or “fixed links” but as that isn't going to be possible to arrange by September we will have Friday and Saturday night shifts tacked onto the end of a week of dead lates every 10-12 weeks in the roster.  While they say this will only be a temporary measure the suspicion among TOps is that this will become a permanent fixture.  From listening to talk around the mess room these night shifts are already highly unpopular, no one is going to want to swap those weeks and some people who currently work earlies are going to be stuck with them which won’t help if your household arrangements are based around a set work pattern.

Needless to say there are several theories floating around to explain LUL’s intransigence, a popular one is that management were waiting to see who won the election in the hope that the Tories would stay in power and bring in a change to the law regarding strike ballots or even make strikes on the Tube illegal.  While it sounds plausible I somehow suspect that Cameron & Co have far more pressing matters to deal with than a bit of trouble on the Tube and the same applies to the idea that management are trying to provoke a strike in order to get legislation pushed through.

Another explanation is that having seen off RMT and TSSA over “ticket office closures” with comparative ease management are brimming with confidence and think that they can steamroller TOps just as easily.  If that is the case then they weren’t paying attention last summer when the ASLEF strike effectively closed the Central Line, spread that to the whole combine, throw in a joint strike with RMT who are itching to get some pay back and there would be no service at all.

As I mentioned in a previous post there’s also a suggestion that LUL have been given a strict budget and are being told from above that they can’t offer us any more than they are; they are simply obeying orders.  A final possibility doing the rounds is that LUL don’t want Night Tube and are going through the motions in order to placate Boris ahead of his imminent departure.  They have deliberately made an offer the unions cannot accept in order to stall things so when the start date rolls around they can blame us for the failure and wash their hands of the whole sorry affair.

Whatever the explanation the talks drag on, we get no closer to settling things, Friday 11th September is now less than four months away and should LUL try to impose the new timetable upon us without an agreement in place then a strike will be unavoidable.  While we don’t want to go on strike we know we will win this one, if LUL really want Night Tube then they are going to have to make us a reasonable offer sometime between now and the beginning of August, in the meantime let’s hope we have a nice summer before it all kicks off.

Friday, 17 April 2015

We have engineering works on the Central Line this weekend, track replacement and drainage works at WHC, nothing unusual about that but what has raised eyebrows is that rather than terminating services at MAA on the WB every second or third train will be running through to QUE.  The QUE crossover, to the east of the station going from the WB approach to the EB platform, was out of service for ages and only came back into service a few years ago but it is very rarely used.  In my whole 12 years as a TOp I’ve only ever gone over it once, an event I recorded on this blog back in April 2013.

The general opinion around the mess rooms as to why the QUE crossover is so rarely used is that it can be a little “unreliable”, as its hardly been used I have no idea if this is the case or not  but if it is then sending five or six trains over it every hour seems a little optimistic.  What also seems a little optimistic are the lifts at QUE which also have a reputation for being “temperamental”, one of the two lifts is invariably out of service and should both fail the only way out is by the 109-step spiral staircase. 

Tomorrow could be interesting.......

Sunday, 12 April 2015

On Thursday LU upped their initial “fair and affordable” pay offer to 0.75% for Year 1 and RPI for Year 2 but on condition that we accepted the changes to our agreements for the introduction of Night Tube and dropped all our other requests.  In addition to the two £250 bonuses for accepting Night Tube they are now offering an extra £250 specifically for TOps on the lines that will be running overnight.  Management have made reassuring noise about permanent “fixed links” and/or part-time TOps covering the extra night shifts at some vague point in the future but initially they want to put additional night duties at weekends into our roster and somehow I suspect that is how it would stay

Obviously this is less than satisfactory with us but according to an RMT memo from two weeks ago it seems that management share the unions’ opinion that this will never be acceptable.  It seems that Boris has put restrictions on how much Night Tube will cost so rather than management being stubborn and unreasonable they’re having to negotiate with their hands tied.  If this is true then I actually feel quite sorry for our management which in itself is disturbing.

In January TSSA claimed they’d seen minutes from an LU meeting which estimated that Night Tube will lose £19.6m in the first year and not break even until 2033.  Presuming that calculation was based on staff accepting the paltry offer initially presented then Boris is either going to have to accept that it’s going to cost him a lot more or he’s going to have to scrap Night Tube and go back on his promise, something he’s had plenty of practice doing while mayor.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Yesterday ASLEF’s Finn Brennan described negotiations as “a bit like the first half of a duty at Edgware Road, 4 hours of going round in circles!”  So things are not going well and what does LUL do when they can’t get their way?  They turn to their sympathetic friends at the Evening Delevingne who helpfully provided their usual anti-union hatchet job, resurrecting ASLEF’s wish list from December and presenting it as our current “demands”.  Even then they couldn’t get it right, claiming we’d asked for the £500 lump sum payment that LUL are offering for Night Tube but that didn’t stop ITV, the Mirror and others repeating it all as fact.

No mention that it was LUL who insisted on combining our latest pay deal with Night Tube which the unions had wanted to discuss separately, no mention that our current agreement is only three days of 24 hour working per year, no mention that in order to have enough staff we should have started training new TOps in January and no mention that over a week ago ASLEF offered fresh proposals for working Night Tube:-

- Additional rest days off on weeks following the working of nights on Friday and Saturday; a real reduction in the average working week.

- Additional shift enhancements for working Night Tube on Friday and Saturday

- A freeze on weekend working for existing train operators, following the introduction of Night Tube with an agreement to a reduction

- A recruitment process for new train operators; to alleviate the increase in unsocial weekend working for existing train operators

- A process for existing train operators to work 1, 2 or 3 days less per week

- A consolidated lump sum payment for all train operators for fundamental changes in terms, conditions and agreements.

These are proposals not demands, they are open for negotiation, concepts that LUL management and their right wing friends seem unable or simply unwilling to comprehend.  One thing to bear in mind is that when we agreed to temporarily run trains later during the Olympics LUL offered us the same £500 one-off lump sum they are now offering to permanently run overnight two nights every week.

Monday, 9 March 2015

And so the great non-strike of March 2015 passed by without anyone noticing, if there is no further action then many trees will have died in vain.  The only thing of note was the presence of a pair of senior managers at LES who just happened to show up on a Saturday night where all the night duties pick up their trains.  While they tried painfully hard to cultivate an air of nonchalance they bore a striking resemblance to a couple of fathers outside the maternity ward, I was half expecting them to break out the cigars if everyone turned up.

Ironically the D&A testers turned up at LES on Sunday, the first time I can remember them ever doing a check other than M-F 9-5 and perhaps that is why things didn’t go quite as they should.  Apparently one of the TOps selected only took the breath test before someone realised that there was no one available to take their train and they were put back on duty before giving a urine sample.  So while they might have been stoned out of their mind, coked up to the eyeballs or otherwise sorted for Es and Whizz at least they weren’t drunk.  Which is nice…….

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

So after the pointless preamble that wasted a month or so LUL have finally made their opening offer; a 2-year deal with 0.5% this year and RPI next year plus a one-off £500 payment for Night Tube.  That £500 would be divided into two, the first £250 being paid if everything is agreed by June so that things can go smoothly in September and the second £250 paid in January if everything goes according to plan.   Talks will resume today, providing the unions have stopped laughing by then……

Along with that LUL gave us an idea of how they intend to staff Night Tube on the train side.  The depots would be given a choice of either part-time TOps working the extra night shifts or “fixed links” which I assume means adding the extra night shifts into our existing roster.  Now on the face of it seems like a nice offer, we all vote for “part-timers” and get £500 for doing nothing but that ignores a couple of important points.

Firstly the obvious problem with the part-time TOps idea is we only have six months.  It takes 3-4 months to train a TOp but before that LUL has to advertise the position, sort through the applications then have the applicants go through the entry exam, interview, medical and police background check.  Even if we were to agree to the deal today I doubt if there is enough time left to have things ready by September so for an initial period Night Tube would need the existing TOps to fill in.

In addition to that recruiting TOps straight off the street doesn’t work, LUL tried it back when I was on stations.  From the thousands of applicants only a few made it through the selection process and of those most only got as far as the CSA stage with a mere handful making it through to TOp.   That was for full time TOps on full time salaries, I doubt if it would be any more successful attracting part timers on a reduced salary.

So even though LUL has offered us a choice it seems to me that the extra night shifts will in all likelihood end up being included in our roster, making the conditional £500 one-off payment seem a little insulting.  Stay tuned, folks, it should get interesting.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Okay things just got weird, RMT have announced a strike in support of AMcG with TOps being asked not to book on for duty between 21:30 on Saturday 7 March and 03:59 Sunday 8 March.  As all the late turns will have started and the early turns don’t book on until around 06:00 this is basically a strike by the night shifts.   I’m not sure about the rules regarding strike action but I’m guessing that if they don’t hold a strike within a certain time after the vote in favour they have to re-ballot but even so it’s a bit bizarre.

Meanwhile over at the pay talks LUL have announced that they are trying to include Night Tube in the negotiations which makes sense as it’s going to need big changes to our terms and conditions.  The downside is that by combining the two issues into one LUL might be hoping to get away with giving us less in exchange for our agreement and also they can now drag things out until August.