Wednesday, 30 April 2014

I spent yesterday shuttling between LES and EPP, not quite as monotonous as the W&C or when I did HAI-NEPs during engineering work but after the third of fourth I was certainly heading for “Groundhog Day”.  There were a few RMT TOps skulking around the depot, not wanting to pop outside for a smoke in case their colleagues on the picket line spotted them and I suspect there will be a few more today.  There were a few mutters about switching to ASLEF and I’ve heard that membership forms are in short supply.

TSSA’s decision to stay at the table has damaged the strike's effectiveness, the station staff are despondent enough with the reorganisation, losing more money just doesn’t seem worth it.  The unions will eventually thrash something out with management, RMT will hail it as a great victory and take all the credit for themselves.  Things will get back to normal, staff will get shunted around, the ticket offices will close and then ……..

Fit for the Future: Trains.

To paraphrase Crocodile Dundee “You call that a strike?  THIS is a strike!”

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

And we’re off on the Great Strike of 2014 Part 2.  It seems that everyone decided to follow TfL’s advice and get home as soon as they could, the peak was extra busy with passengers cramming themselves on my train like it was the last lifeboat on the Titanic.  When I went back through the Pipe on my second half London seemed deserted but while other lines were reporting delays and serious delays due to strike action the Central seemed to be unaffected.

It was only as I approached NOA on the EB that Wood Lane told me to tip out at WHC, run empty to LES and then go back into service as all the Section 12 stations were closing down.  I don’t know if this was because they didn’t have enough staff or simply as a precaution in case the night duty Supers didn’t show up but after 22:00 Central London was shut down.

I tipped out at WHC, explained to the dozen or so passengers waiting on the platform what was going on and headed off empty across London.  At SHB there were three passengers on the platform looking hopefully as I approached, at HOP two passengers were being ushered out by a member of station staff but after that the platforms were deserted apart from the mice who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the absence of humans.

At STR there were a good two dozen people waiting as I sailed through the station but between LES and EPP I only picked up three passengers, one of which was a LOU TOp who’d stabled their train at WOO.  I put my train away at LOU just after midnight and caught the last train back to LES, all the other last trains were running so as far as train staff are concerned the Central Line seems to have been unaffected.  Things could be quite different when I get into work later today.

The only other thing I noticed yesterday was that there appears to be an upsurge in graffiti, the last LES train had been tagged and someone has been busy between SOW and SNA; they’ve even sprayed two of the billboards on the WB platform at SNA and one of the roundels on the west end of the EB.  I was off over the weekend but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t there last week, knowing that SNA is one of the stations that occasional gets left unstaffed I’m wondering if some little git noticed this and decided to do a bit of freestyle decorating.  Wonder how much unwanted paint will have been added after the strike?

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Okay I’m going to have to admit I think I might have got a little confused.

The CSS grade will be qualified to the level of a Station Supervisor rather than to the level of a SAMF or SACR and they will be earning the equivalent of an SSMF, £42778, rather than the SAMF/SACR salary of £35019.  Somewhere between writing my first post back in December and today I forgot that as well as working on Gateway and Destination stations CSSs will be responsible for running the 64 Local A stations and from what TSSA said  it looks as if they will also be extended to the 61 Local Bs that would have been staffed by CSAs.

Rather than CSMs being Supervisors with a fancy title they will be more like DSMs with a few bits of the Station Super job tacked on so RMT are indeed correct in saying that more management jobs created, from 228 (38 GSMs, 190 DSMs) to 1068 (97 AMs, 336 CSM1s, 635 CSM2s), which gives us the magical 840 that they are going on about.

I suppose in the end the question is what constitutes “frontline staff”?  You cannot begin to imagine just how glad I am I made the decision to leave stations for trains where there is no confusion about roles, grades or salaries; TOps are all qualified to the same level, we all have the same responsibilities, we all get paid the same.  Let’s keep it that way.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

In September RMT will elect a new General Secretary and candidates are already stepping forward to fill Unkle Bob’s somewhat larger than life shoes.  I’ve been talking to RMT colleagues both on the Tube and on the mainline and then doing a little Googling to get an idea of who might be next to become the hate figure for millions of Daily Mail readers in the next five years.  If I’ve made any errors then my apologies to the gentlemen concerned, as with all my posts I am always willing to retract and correct.
Mick Cash is one of the two Assistant General Secretaries and currently Acting Gen Sec so he’s getting a bit of attention as he’s “leading” the strikes next week.  Like Bob he joined the railways straight from school, starting at BR’s Signals and Communications Department, became an active member of the Watford branch before becoming a full time RMT official in 2002.  Unlike Bob he is very much from the “right wing” of the union and when Jimmy Knapp retired in 2002 Mick helped organise the election campaign of one of Bob’s rivals.
He was a local Labour councillor, used to sit on Labour’s National Executive Committee and he angered the left wingers by abstaining from the vote when RMT were expelled.  Not unexpectedly opinion is divided among those RMT members I’ve spoken to, the left see him as not militant enough while the right see him as refreshingly moderate after years of militancy.
Steve Hedley is the other Asst Gen Sec and is the polar opposite of Mick Cash, at the last GLA elections he stood as a candidate for the Trades Union and Socialist Coalition, the ragbag of minor left wing parties that Bob cobbled together in 2010.   Like Bob he’s an ex-Tube worker, from the Engineering branch but unlike Bob he came to the railways through Birkbeck College and a Catholic grammar school in Derry.
He’s certainly up for a fight, a keen amateur boxer who was convicted of assaulting a manager during the RMT/TSSA strikes at the end of 2010 but cleared on appeal when CCTV footage that had been “overlooked” at his trial proved his innocence.  That appears to be the stumbling block with some of the RMT members I talked to, he’s just too pugnacious, too abrasive and lacking in diplomacy to succeed Unkle Bob (and yes I’m sure some of you read those words in utter disbelief).
John Leach is an ex-Station Super from the Central Line, was RMT President from 2006 to 2009, is the London Regional Organiser and is also getting his face seen doing interviews with the media in the run up to the strikes.  He seems to fall somewhere between Cash and Hedley politically, certainly on the left but like Bob not enjoying the full support of the hardliners (again I can feel some of you reading that in disbelief).  He’s been equally prepared to stand up to management and the union leadership, having had a few disagreements with Bob in the past.  He seems to be generally regarded as a decent bloke who make a good Gen Sec although some think he's a bit too much like Bob.
The only other name I’ve seen nominated is Edinburgh’s Alan Pottage, another “lifer” who started as a 19 year old guard back in 1982 and is the National Organising Co-ordinator.  As most of my contacts are London-based no one seems to know much about him, the only thing I’ve been able to find out about him online is that he plays the bass and recently recorded a tribute to Bob Crow with the Alabama 3, the South London band who did the music at the start of “The Sopranos”.

Feckin' cool or what?


Monday, 21 April 2014

Okay this is just a guess but I think I’ve worked out what RMT are saying.

On 17 April they issued a memo from the General Grades Committee saying that in addition to the 953 jobs we knew about another 840 frontline staff would be lost while at the same time LUL would be creating an extra 900 managers.  I think, but I’m not sure, that RMT are counting the 971 new Customer Service Manager positions as management but from what I’ve read they’re just Station Supervisors given a fancy new name.  Apart from taking on some extra admin work delegated from the defunct DSM position they’re going to be doing much the same job for the same pay and are no less frontline than the Station Supers we have right now.

Are RMT going out on strike over a change of job title?  If I manage to get clarification on this issue I will let you know.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

RMT issued a press release 4pm yesterday which along with the usual filler claims that a further 840 “front-line operational” posts will go although they don’t specify exactly what these jobs are.  More information would be nice as TSSA made no mention of more job cuts.

Elsewhere 1000 managerial staff at TfL HQ in Victoria, London Overground and travel centres in the big mainline stations have voted to go on strike over a pay freeze and pension cuts; Peter Hendy and more than 50 senior managers earning over £100k will be unaffected.  Management have twice refused to go to ACAS but TSSA are still hoping to settle this through negotiation.

Yesterday I said that TSSA staying in negotiations while RMT walked out raised some questions so I did the obvious and checked on TSSA’s website.  There I found an update of negotiations from Thursday and it makes interesting reading.  You can read it all yourself here….

…….but it seems that although progress has been slow and there's still plenty to argue about TSSA are quite happy with how things are going.

For a start DSMs and Station Supers will not have to reapply for their jobs or be downgraded, any DSM not getting promotion to Area Manager or taking voluntary redundancy will automatically get a CSM1 job, similarly every Station Supervisor who wants to stay will be a CSM1 or 2.  Good news for them  but that still leaves the 1450 SAMFs/SACRs to fight over the 666 CSS positions with those who fail to get one becoming CSA1s and losing around £6k in 2018.

The 61 Local B stations will now be staffed by “Supervisors” rather than just a CSA1 but TSSA mentions that they will not agree to “diluting and downgrading of this role” which suggests that while TSSA want this to be a CSM LUL think this could be the new CSS grade.  Obviously CSMs/SSs are trained and licenced to deal with a lot more but obviously they get paid more as a consequence.

TSSA say that LUL have committed to minimising the impact of moving stations, trying to ensure that staff like the Station Supervisor I mentioned who’d worked many, many years at the same station on the east end of the Central Line doesn’t end up working at the top of the Met or somewhere out on the western end of the District.  Negotiations on this will continue which I’d guess means that they are now discussing the exact definition of the word “minimising”.

They’re still arguing over the 953 jobs cuts but it seems that the applications for voluntary redundancy have increased from 450 to 650 in the last 8 weeks.  TSSA still isn’t happy with all the ticket offices apart from six closing or with “de-skilling” which I suppose means reducing SAMFs/SACRs to CSA1s and the creation of the CSA2 grade who will be customer service only with no railway licensing.  Finally they say that they will be negotiating over the categorising of stations and are hoping for a station-by-station review of LUL’s plans.

So those are the results of 8 weeks of negotiations and obviously it will take at least 8 weeks more to get a final agreement, the question remains why LUL didn't talk to the unions about this before announcing their final plans and setting off the strikes?  Today is my "day off" from making Old Mother shrugged's breakfast, my brother is seeing to that this morning but tomorrow I'll be making scrambled eggs which will make a change from her usual porridge.  Happy Easter, people.

Friday, 18 April 2014

I haven’t written recently as most of my mornings are now spent with Old Mother shrugged, after which I go home to do my own housework and/or getting ready for work.  On my days off I’ve spent a great deal of time sleeping along with trying to have something approaching a social life so blogging has taken a backseat.

I had heard that things were not going well at the negotiations on station staffing so RMT’s announcement that they were going out on strike again isn’t much of a surprise although the fact that TSSA have chosen to remain at the table does raise questions.  My only input is that every time I’ve been through Dagenham Heathway around 8am there is a fair old queue at the ticket window, it will be interesting to see how things are going to work out after it’s closed and all that's left are the self-service machines.