Monday, 28 July 2014

“Nortius Maximus his name was, hmmm, promised me the known world he did. I was to be taken to Rome, house by the Forum, slaves, asses’ milk, as much gold as I could eat. Then, he, having his way with me had... voom! Like a rat out of an aqueduct.”

Station staff must be feeling pretty much like Mandy from “Life of Brian”, back in May when the strikes were called off it seemed that RMT and TSSA had done rather well, no pay cuts, no one would have to reapply for their job, there would be discussions on how to minimize disruption with a station by station review of ticket office closures and staffing.   Now it seems that LUL actually meant something entirely different  with management insisting that the ticket offices and staffing levels are not up for negotiation.

As far as disruption goes RMT predict that of the 4720 staff that will be left after the shake up over 3000 will be moved from their current location which by anyone's standards is pretty disruptive.  1200 SAMFs and SACRs, mostly working in Zone 1 stations, will be moving to the outer Zones stations where they will be the only member of staff on duty while every CSA currently at the 125 Local stations will be heading in the opposite direction.

The unions asked exactly how they’d calculated staffing levels, eventually LUL coughed up their “Business Needs Schematic”, a formula constructed by some very expensive consultants and RMT have been kind enough to pass it on through their website.  It seems that any ticket hall where passengers need 18 seconds of assistance in a given 15 minute period, referred to as the “2% utilisation trigger”, requires a member of staff to be in attendance and if the “40% utilisation trigger” is reached, 6 minutes out of 15, then a second member of staff is needed.

Now here’s the twist; all 125 Local stations will be staffed by a lone CSS who LUL admit will only be available in the ticket hall 50% of the time because of their other supervisory duties.  The unions argue that means any ticket hall with 3 minutes of assistance needs a second member of staff which applies to every station during the peak.

The obvious answer is that the CSS would be available in the ticket hall during the peak and carry out their other duties during the rest of their 8 hour shift but anyone who has worked on stations knows that this is not how things work out.  If something needs to be done then the CSS would have to leave the ticket hall unstaffed for however long it took and the punters would have to fend for themselves; so much from customer service.

Another rather nasty twist buried deep in all this is that almost all the part-time positions, mostly staff that have childcare or similar issues, will be scrapped. It seems that the part-timers will be offered full time jobs, possibly miles away from their current location which if they are unable or unwilling to accept then they will have to apply for redundancy.  The slim ray of hope is that if the unions succeed with their claim that all Locals need a second member of staff during the peak those part-timers would offer LUL a cheaper alternative.

According to the unions LUL have admitted that the 953 job cuts were arbitrary and although there isn’t any further explanation of exactly what that means from reading other bits and pieces I think they are saying that the staffing levels do not reflect how busy individual stations are so my best guess is that they’re saying a station classified as Local A gets the same staff as every other Local A regardless of how busy it is.

On their website RMT have the breakdown of the how many staff there are currently work on each line and how many will be there after the reorganisation with each line then broken down into areas.  Every area will suffer some job losses and it seems that LUL’s earlier claim that busier stations would be getting more staff was false, even the six Gateway stations will have less staff.  The unions are also concerned that a lot of Supervisor jobs will be re-graded into management and as a non-operational grade they will no longer be under the remit of the Functional Council.

Unsurprisingly the biggest complaint is over pay, rather than all staff keeping the salary they are currently on as LUL seemed to indicate back in May it now transpires that in order to stay on the same money staff will be required to sit additional assessments with anyone failing to pass facing a pay cut after three years.  In addition they have to accept whatever position and location LUL offers them, if they decline a move to the other side of London then the same pay cut applies.

So apart from Local As being staffed by a CSS rather than a lone CSA1 almost nothing has changed from LUL's original plan.  Sadly while the unions are doing very well arousing the anger of staff they don't seem to be bothering to broadcast what all this reorganisation will mean to the travelling public, the only people who could possibly make LUL reconsider.  Admittedly the unions are never going to get much help getting their side across from the media who they seem perfectly content to simply regurgitate TfL press releases without question and in many cases are positively hostile to unions.

In reply to the unions’ complaint Phil Hufton, LUL’s Chief Operating Officer, said “The only way to resolve the issues raised is to continue talking and not threatening further industrial action”.  If the staff feel like Mandy from “Life of Brian” then he’s a Vogon from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”.  


Let’s hope he doesn’t want to read us some of his poetry………..

Friday, 25 July 2014

Oh dear, it seems that sometime next week I’ll be getting a little brown envelope from the Electoral Commission with a ballot paper inside asking me if I want to go on strike.

As well as many side issues the main area of contention is the treatment of sick TOps, it seems that management think if we are unfit to work as a TOp, even temporarily, they can “terminate” us any time they want but our position is that contractually we get 26 weeks sick pay with 13 weeks in redeployment.

ASLEF asked for a meeting with the Central Line bigwigs to try sort things out and they got round the table on Monday but the whole thing only lasted 10 minutes before ASLEF walked out in disgust.  Sadly this isn’t unexpected, as I’m sure anyone reading my blog will have noticed I’m less than impressed with the standard of management down here, Lord knows what the selection process is like but I suspect having no connection between the ears and the brain must be high on the list of desirable attributes.

If things follow the usual course we can expect a vitriolic attack in the Evening Standard about lazy train drivers holding London to ransom so that they can carry on skiving off because they’ve got the sniffles or have sprained their wrist trying to lift our overstuffed wallets.  LUL will say that the strike is unnecessary, be dragged kicking and screaming to ACAS where they’ll capitulate on everything and we can get back to the business of running a railway.

And some talking pile of warthog’s vomit will call for driverless trains.

On that subject Boris mentioned the “New Train for London” on LBC’s Vanessa Faultz Show as did LUL’s Director of Capital Programs David Waboso CBE (for services to transport and wasting shedloads of money on the Sub Surface Lines signalling upgrade) in the Standard saying how they’d be cooler than the sauna-like conditions our passengers are currently enjoying.  For some reason both of them forgot to mention when they’d be entering service and neither of the interviewers bothered to ask but according to TfL’s latest wish list “The Plan” the hope is that the first NTfL will appear on the Piccadilly in 2021/22.

I bet you feel cooler already.

So how are things on the Central Line?  Bloody awful.  We don’t have enough TOps to run the timetable, putting a train away early because there’s no one to relieve you has become pretty commonplace but in part that is masked by the number of trains developing faults while in service and having to be withdrawn to the depots and sidings.  The lack of “turnaround” time means that the smallest delay leads to late running and I’ve probably filled out more overtime slips in the last six months than I have in the previous ten years.

Wood Lane are a constant source of amusement/irritation, they seem to be in competition with each other on how many times they can say “eastbound” or “westbound” in a single announcement, I counted six a few days ago.  Occasionally there is confusion about which is EB and which is WB or sometimes we get no direction at all, simply left to deduce which trains are being given a “platforms and hold” from where the incident is.  Sometimes we’re left in the dark as to where the problem is or why we are being held which isn't helpful as we're required to make PAs to inform the passengers of the situation after 30 seconds and then keep them updated every 2 minutes.

Despite all that it’s still very nice to trundle up to EPP in CM with the cab door open although there haven’t any more Muntjac sightings.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

In my defence I did say that I have been rather absorbed with life outside of work recently but as Auxsetreq commented after my last post there is something going on.  Two weeks ago both Leytonstone and Western Electric branches voted to ask the ASLEF Executive Council to ballot for strike action on the Central Line. 

On Saturday I hastily jotted down the issues from the notices that have gone up at the depots -

- Incorrect recording and managing of staff errors

- Misuse and abuse of the Case Conference system

- Staff being asked to do overtime

- Prompt dispatch

- Management not dealing with late running issues

- Annual leave not being granted when asked for within the 28 days specified.

- Misinterpretation of LU Occupational Health and Doctors advice

- Timetable issues

- Failure to abide by local agreements

I was certainly aware that there was plenty of late running with the latest timetable and I’ve mentioned it here but for the rest I’ll admit I hadn’t heard anything at all nor can I offer any explanation of how things have reached the stage where we are considering strike action.

I would ask around but I’m on annual leave for the next two weeks, I've spent two days thoroughly enjoying doing absolutely nothing and the only reason I might go into work is to check on the goldfish.