Wednesday 28 December 2011

Wow. My last post has been read almost 300 times, that's the most this blog has been viewed since I started. Shucks, folks, what can I say, I feel humbled. Thanks.

It's still not as popular as the "balloon animals"

Let's get one thing straight, I'm not a union rep, I don't represent the views of ASLEF or anyone else for that matter, it's just me, yer average TOp on the sunny Red One.

I said a while back I'd talk about driverless trains, so here's my understanding of things.

We all knew that driverless trains were on the way, there had been rumours filtering out from the Bakerloo Line that a rather tactless manager was going around bragging how soon he would no longer have to deal with TOps. Just after the summer RMT had a leaflet out claiming that they’d heard of plans to make the Tube NoPO but then a few months later they produced a copy of a document that had been leaked to them and all hell broke loose.

At first LUL told us that it was just a feasibility study, a low-level exercise to get the managers thinking “outside the box” but then there was an article in the ES where Mike Brown was quoted as saying that driverless trains were in the pipeline and that there would be 120 meetings before March where staff will be told they must accept a whole "new way" of running the network.

This goes under the title of “Fit for London”, the sort of subtle Olympic reference we expect from our imaginative overlords, and is part of his campaign to win our “hearts and minds” though to be honest he’s got a far greater chance of ending up with his head on a pole than gaining any part of our anatomy.

The basic idea seems to be that sometime after 2015 trials will start on the W&C to see if the system actually works. This makes sense, the W&C is the smallest line on the Combine with only five trains, just over a mile long and only two stations, it gets used mostly Mon-Fri and closes on Sunday so you could test run at weekends without much disruption.

The problem is that there is only room for five trains down there, there is no extra space so that will mean reducing the service to four trains during the week. It’s crowded enough in the peak, I hate to think what it will be like with a reduced service.

If everything goes according to plan (the way it did on the Jubilee over the last few years or with the new Viccy Line trains) then the Bakerloo will be the first to go NoPO. This will take a few years and while it is undergoing conversion you will have the old trains running with TOps and the new ones without, on two different signalling systems, not forgetting that London Overground shares the track north of Queen’s Park.

After the Bakerloo will come the Piccadilly then the Central but all that is not expected to be completed until after 2025 and will still leave 80% of the Tube running on ATO with TOps in the cabs. By that time I’ll be looking to hang up my RKL220 key, move to the North Norfolk coast and get myself a Staffy.

Strangely no one seems to have noticed this little article in the Leicester Mercury back in November which claims that the boffins are already hard at work on NoPO up at the Old Dalby Test Track in Nottinghamshire. Glad to read that no badgers were harmed.

One final note, while the new trains will be driverless they will not be unstaffed, a new grade, Train Attendant, will be created and they’ll fulfil the same function as the train staff on the DLR. Obviously as they aren’t train drivers per se it is unlikely they will join ASLEF and are therefore likely to fall into the clutches of RMT, along with the extra staff in the control rooms needed to operate the system and the army of technicians needed to maintain all the new automated equipment.

RMT have always wanted to unite all Tube staff under one union and it seems as if LUL are doing their utmost to help them achieve their ambition.

Monday 26 December 2011

Let’s start at the very beginning, it’s very good place to start…..”

Before last year on Boxing Day we’d run a reduced service, roughly between a quarter and a third of staff would come in while the rest would have a day’s Annual Leave docked and be given the day off. The duty sheets would be prepared in advance and then the Mafias went to work, sorting out who wanted the day off and who didn’t mind coming in. Everyone was happy because it worked.

Last year LUL announced that due to demand they’d be running a Sunday schedule which would mean that more than double the number of TOps would be required to come in. Obviously we were less than happy with this, complaints were raised at branch meetings and ASLEF took up the issue.

ASLEF’s suggestion was to make working on Boxing Day voluntary and in order to “incentivise” (is that a real word?) the staff they suggested that LUL offer triple pay with an extra day off in lieu. It was an opening bid, open to negotiation but it’s been trolled out many times since then, when the media reported the imaginary Royal Wedding strike they claimed we were asking for that.

LUL replied that any Boxing Day that fell on the weekend was not a Bank Holiday and was a normal working day while any that fell on a weekday were covered by our existing agreement so there was nothing to talk about. ASLEF failed to agree and informed LUL that they’d be balloting us for strike action.

Hardly surprisingly the vote was overwhelmingly in favour, around half the 2200 or so members voted, 1025 for and 127 against, and ASLEF announced a 24 hour strike on Boxing Day. LUL attempted to get it stopped in the courts, the judge threw it out and a meeting at ACAS was arranged.

When it was too late LUL offered to go back to the reduced timetable, a concession of sorts that the full Sunday service had never been needed, but with most of the Admin staff already gone home for Christmas there wasn’t enough time to sort out who’d be working and who wouldn’t.

So the Boxing Day strike went ahead, as there were no picket lines to refuse to cross RMT came in and as they’d planned a Sunday service there were enough trains to deal with demand. And then nothing, despite repeated requests to sit down and discuss the issue LUL refused to talk.

Almost a year to the day after the first meeting LUL finally agreed to discuss the issue. Once again we suggested voluntary “incentivised” working and once again LUL said that things were just fine the way they are. As Boxing Day is on a Monday this year they’ve gone back to the old system with only a quarter of us coming in but we’d like to get things sorted out before 2015, the next time it falls on a Saturday.

Another ballot and as with last year around half the members voted with an almost identical outcome. This time LUL agreed to another meeting before going to the courts but once more there was no agreement and the judge rejected their case. LUL didn’t bother coming up with a last minute offer this time, it was Thursday afternoon and perhaps they’d planned to knock off early for Christmas.

Rather than striking on Boxing Day, which obviously wasn’t enough to “incentivise” LUL, ASLEF have planned three more strike days, one in January and two in February. In this blog I expressed a certain reticence to vote as I would be on holiday Boxing Day and it was even used as evidence to support LUL’s court case. As I will be on strike for one or two of the future dates I happily support the strike and am glad I voted in favour.

Publish that, Howard Collins, and be damned! Or better yet sit down with our Reps and get the bloody thing sorted out so we don't have to suffer a repeat of this pointless exercise in 2012, 2013 and 2014!

To those of you struggling into work today, my apologies but it takes two to make an argument and LUL started this by messing about with Boxing Day in 2010. To those of you who think we are being greedy and unreasonable to ask for triple pay and a day in lieu, no apology whatsoever, you are being unreasonably by believing that we actually expect to get that.

Not that I would ever choose triple pay and a day in lieu, I’d much rather let someone else take my place while I spend Boxing Day with my family, my friends and West Ham United. Money isn’t everything, it can’t buy you time and one thing that was brought home to me over the past 12 months is that we have a finite amount.

To absent friends.

Friday 23 December 2011

Well, that’s that, no more work until New Year’s Day. 2011 has been a difficult year for me on a personal level, one way or another I’ve lost a number of people I was close to and various ambitions I had at the start of the year remain unfulfilled. I can only hope that 2012 is a little less fraught and that I can devote more time to writing.

London has been very quiet this week and will probably be even quieter next. The courts threw out LUL’s attempt to block the Boxing Day strike and while I hope something can be sorted out round the negotiating table today somehow I doubt it, no matter what happens on Monday LUL senior managers’ jobs will be secure and they will still be drawing their huge salaries.

Anyway, a merry Christmas to all and a happy New Year, stay home Boxing Day.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

For those of you who’ve never seen “Life of Brian”.

LUL say when Boxing Day is on a Saturday or Sunday it isn’t a Bank holiday and is just a normal day. We say that the current agreement covers Bank Holidays only and that every Boxing Day should be voluntary working at triple time with a day in lieu.

They offer us time and a half, we ask for double and a half and a day in lieu, they offer us double time and a day in lieu when it’s on a weekend, we say deal.

Except LUL won’t haggle. Where’s Burt when you need him……

Friday 9 December 2011

The rain caused chaos with ATO yesterday; I lost count of the number of times the train ground to a halt halfway into a platform or between stations, in the end I just put it into Coded Manual and drove the thing, Wood Lane even made an announcement advising us to go in Coded. So much for us just opening and closing doors all day!

While the Victoria Line seems to be suffering repeat overrunning engineering works we are suffering from Christmas shoppers; overcrowded stations closing, Passenger Emergency Alarms getting pulled down on trains, security alerts when someone’s left Granny’s present on the train or platform, even the occasional “passenger action” which probably is two people continuing the fight they started in Hamleys over the last “Let’s Rock Elmo” on the WB platform at OXO.

The ASLEF reps have been busy drumming up support for the Boxing Day strike, I’ve been asked by just about every rep on the line if I’ve sent my ballot paper in, one of them has even asked me twice. I explained that I’d be on Annual Leave that week but they didn’t seem to mind so I’ve sent it in despite my earlier reticence. So just like last year I will be manning the picket line at my local pub watching West Ham on Sky Sports except this year I will be getting paid. I will just have to drown the guilt in beer…..

Doing ATOR with two weeks of early shifts a few months back was enough for me, I’ve finally given up on following the roster and trying to sort duties out on my own; I have joined a Mafia. A Mafia is a group of TOps who join together to exchange duties so from now on someone will give my earlies to someone who likes doing them while I get lates and nights in return. From now on I won’t start work until noon at the earliest, the mornings are mine to do my domestic duties.