Monday 13 December 2010

Sunday I was spare, things were quiet and all I ended up doing was a LES to WER and back. With so little to relay I thought I’d try to explain the waves of industrial action that are besetting the Tube at the moment. What I’ve ended up with is the longest post I’ve ever written and hope it’s not too much for my readers.

First off there’s the biggy, the loss of 650 station staff, mostly ticket office staff, another 150 managerial grades, several hundred administration people and more job losses at Metronet, which has led to four 24 hour strikes since September by RMT and my old union TSSA, which previously hadn’t walked out at the Tube since the General Strike in 1926. The admin and management jobs are being shed out of a need to save money due to the recession, an argument which LUL have negated themselves by regularly trumpeting that they are carrying more passengers than ever before. The recession certainly ain’t hurting us, the DfT slashing TfL’s budget maybe.

On the station side LUL’s argument is that since the introduction of Oyster cards TOs aren’t as busy so they are reducing the opening hours and therefore don’t need as many staff. As I’ve said elsewhere when Oysters were being introduced management were insistent that this would not affect the need for TOs but I thought otherwise and asked to be transferred to the train side of the business. So either management were incompetently inaccurate in their assessment of future trends or it was just bullshit. As I mentioned above we are carrying more passengers, surely we need more staff. What about 2012?

What didn’t help the station staff was that over 200 positions have already fallen vacant with people retiring or leaving the company and they’ve been doing overtime to cover for these vacancies. As for the 150 management grades they were offered severance payments and there were far more applications than the 150 needed, I’ve met several managers who put in for a pay off and have had to stay. As there are no reductions to TOps none of this directly effects ASLEF so we carry on turning up for work. The alterations to TO opening hours along with the roster reorganisation will come in February after which the unions will have to admit defeat.

There are also a couple of local disputes that will manifest themselves as strikes next Saturday. On the Bakerloo Line a TOp, a RMT Health and Safety Rep, with 15 years on the job, was sacked for an “operational error”. The signaller and the control room staff who instructed him to do whatever it was he did were given Corrective Action Plans, basically a few days retraining being told what they did wrong and what they actually should have done. On another line a TOp who made the same mistake some time after this incident was given a 12 month caution.

RMT took this to the Employment Tribunal a month ago, the judge agreed that this was blatantly unfair and awarded him “interim relief” which means that LUL have to pay his salary until his full tribunal hearing in March next year. RMT want him reinstated immediately but LUL refused so he’s sat at home, on full pay but unable to carry out his union responsibilities as H&S Rep and having been one when I was on stations I can assure you there’s a hell of a lot of paperwork.

Anyway RMT balloted it’s 119 members on the Brown One, 45 came back for strike action, 4 against with the same number voting for action short of a strike. Yes I know pathetic really and while the last London Mayoral Election only got a 45.33% turnout our ballots are postal, so your ballot paper drops onto your doormat, all you have to do is put a cross on a piece of paper, put it into the prepaid envelope and shove it in a postbox. Still it seems as if the RMT have every right to be miffed at LUL and if you are on the Bakerloo next Saturday I’d plan a nice day at home.

Meanwhile on the Northern Line a TOp who has been active in RMT for 29 years is accused of “verbally assaulting” a manager working on the gate line of Kennington station during one of the last strike days. Even though his disciplinary interview hasn’t been held yet RMT have still balloted their 192 members for strike action and the result has been somewhat different.

At his home depot, Morden, 30 voted for a strike and 29 against though there was more support for action short of a strike, 44 to 15. At the other three depots the response was tiny, only 21 bothered and the vote was against any action, 8-13 on the strike, 10-11 short of strike. So only RMT at Morden will be out, RMT at the other depots and all ASLEF TOps will be booking on as normal. Expect a few cancelled trains but otherwise the Northern should be running ok.

Meanwhile ASLEF have balloted for strike action on Boxing Day and the result should be out this week. Back in the old days, say er……last year, Boxing Day was treated as special. We ran a reduced service so that as many TOps as possible could have the day off and it coped perfectly well with demand. If we work bank holidays we are given a day off in leiu and if Boxing Day wasn’t one of our rostered rest days the company would just use up one of our accumlated days. This year LUL have decided that December 26th is just another Sunday and will run a full Sunday service although we will be opening up an hour late so that enough trains can be prepped to start.

To make matters worse the timetable change in the summer means we work more Sundays than before so whereas at my depot less than thirty TOps would expect to be working on Boxing Day we will have more than 40 booking on this year. In response ASLEF asked for a day off in lieu which LUL won’t give us as it’s not a bank holiday and for triple pay which LUL obviously rejected. So we balloted for strike action and it looks likely that I will be out on strike December 26th, my first day’s pay lost due to industrial action since joining the Tube.

Now here’s where it get’s amusing; we have no intention of picketing our depots, the whole point was for as many of us to have the day off as possible, we will stay at home (unpaid) with our families like normal people. What this does mean is that when the RMT TOps turn up for work there will be no picket line for them to refuse to cross so they will have no excuse for not working. We’ve worked four of their strike days, let them do all the work for a change. Merry Christmas

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