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.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

As a lifelong West Ham fan I’m saddened but not surprised by the behaviour of some of my fellow supporters with the recent anti-Semitic chanting before the game against Spurs on Sunday.  In the past I’ve heard some disgusting things on the way to matches but it does seem to be a vocal minority that are responsible, every club has them and their numbers seem to be dwindling as time goes by.  Sadly I think it’s unlikely that anyone will be held accountable as the video doesn’t show anyone’s face clearly.

One thing that does annoy me is that this is being widely reported as taking place in Stamford Hill, with its large Jewish community, on London Underground.  First off the Tube doesn’t go to Stamford Hill and secondly it’s clearly not a Tube train, it’s a Greater Anglia 315 out of Liverpool Street on its way to White Hart Lane which does go through Stamford Hill.  Pedantic but it's another example of shoddy journalism.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Yesterday Boris announced that in 2017 Night Tube would be expanded to cover the Met, Circle, District and H&C along with the Overground and the DLR, all of which seems a little presumptuous given that he won’t be mayor by then but also somewhat premature as there’s no guarantee that Night Tube will even go ahead in September.  Amid all the fanfares and photo opportunities what no one at City Hall or TfL has mentioned is that under our current agreement Tube staff are only required to run a service overnight twice a year; on New Year’s Eve and on any other occasion deemed necessary, the last instance being the Queen’s Jubilee in 2012.  Or at least that is what I've been told.

If LUL want to run a 24 hour service two nights a week then they are going to have to negotiate with the unions.  When they finally do you can guarantee that RMT and TSSA will have a few things to say about station staffing, especially all those stations outside Zone 1 where there will be a solitary member of staff left to deal with the drunks staggering back from the West End and especially as Boris’s announcement came hot on the heels of the news that assaults on LU staff have gone up 44% in the last five years.

TfL’s laughable attempt to suggest the rise was due to their recent efforts to encourage staff to report assaults that previously would have gone unreported is as much nonsense as Boris excusing his U-turn on ticket office closures on advances in technology since 2008.   Even when I was on stations back in the last century everything got reported, all belittling the level of assaults does is reinforce the perception of “them and us” between staff down in the Tubes and the suits in their comfy offices.

In addition to negotiations on Night Tube there’s the issue of our next pay deal, the last one in 2011 was for three years so at the moment there is no agreement.  The first meetings took place earlier this month with LUL pleading poverty as they do every time, even recycling the "fair and affordable" mantra they used in 2011.  ASLEF conjured up a wishlist that would have the average Daily Mail reader seething with anti-union outrage, I could go into detail but it seems somewhat pointless as I don't think we've much realistic chance of getting any of the things listed apart from some items on parental and maternity leave which won’t affect me unless its extended to goldfish.

I expect we will end up with something pretty much like last time, a 3 or 4 year deal at RPI plus 0.5% or 2% whichever is greater, which seems to be pretty much standard for the rail industry regardless of whether they are publicly or privately operated.  The big difference is that the last pay deal wasn't agreed until October, this year LUL might have to settle things a little earlier than that.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

RMT announced the result of their ballot yesterday, 299 voted for strike action, 221 voted against and there was one spoilt paper, hardly the overwhelming support they were hoping for.  I read somewhere that this was a 42% turnout which gives RMT about 1240 TOps on their books, rather more than had been suggested at the end of last year.  If Boris were around perhaps he’d point out that only 24% of RMT members support strike action but it appears that he’s given up any attempt of pretending to be Mayor and is currently on some sort of world tour trying to promote himself as future Prime Ministerial material.

There has been the predictable press outrage with the usual shoddy journalism, several inaccurately report that AMcG was driving a train while drunk or that he failed two tests on two separate dates.  Management are sticking to their version of the story, declaring that RMT are asking its members to “defend the indefensible” but still haven’t given a reason why they have rejected RMT’s offer to call of the strike if they agree to abide by the Employment Tribunals decision and give AMcG his job back if it is decided that he has been unfairly sacked.

Until they can offer up an explanation for refusing this option we are left with two possibilities; either they know that AMcG was unfairly dismissed and that they will lose at the Tribunal or they simply don’t care if there’s a strike, possibly they even welcome one.