Thursday 30 January 2014

I’ve been doing a bit more digging around on the strike and I can confirm that RMT has asked Control Room staff to stop working at 9pm next Tuesday along with the station staff.  If TSSA issue the same call then even if the ASLEF TOps come into work we might not be able to go anywhere as there might not be enough staff at Wood Lane or any of the other control centres.

Another twist is that RMT have told its members to refuse to familiarise any of the office staff that LUL are hoping will fill the gaps on stations, according to RMT this is permissible while the union is officially in dispute with LUL so it won’t breech anyone’s terms of employment.  In order to comply with the minimum staffing levels at Section 12 stations a certain number of staff have to be familiarised and if they don’t have enough the station cannot legally be opened.  Unless things have changed since I was on stations familiarisation is done by the Super or if they weren’t available a DSM but as those grades are facing the biggest losses I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to say “no” to training LUL's strike breakers.

A couple of days ago I was talking to a Northern Line TOp who mentioned the case of a Station Supervisor who has been rostered at a station for many years, has come to know quite few of the regular passengers and spends a lot of time on the gateline being customer service orientated, just the sort of thing LUL say they want staff to be. Currently it seems that he has no idea if he'll be at that station in future or even if he'll even be a Supervisor, one of his biggest worries being that after three years of protected pay he'll be facing a substantial pay cut.

It could be that his fears are groundless, that LUL will take into account his years of experience and the good customer relations he's built up while he's been there but until management can offer the staff some assurances its not hard to understand why this has created an atmosphere of confusion and anxiety.  That being said any assurances management make are unlikely to do much to assuage fears, the results of LUL's own survey a few years ago revealed that a majority of staff feel that management are not being entirely truthful with them.

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Okay yesterday’s post was a complete disaster but I think I got it straight by the end.  Similarly the Central Line had a mare yesterday, we started off with a signal failure in the morning after which the trains started to suffer power problems.  An inspection found the cause, 38 “shoes” were found trackside.  For those who don’t know “shoes” are the things that pick up the electricity from the "juice" rails to power the trains and obviously they’re not much use when not attached to anything so finding 38 lying around is not good.

I first knew about the problem when I went to pick up my first train and found a train technician waiting to meet it.  The TOp I relieved told us that the train was sluggish going WB and positively snail-like EB, the TT had a quick check on the part of DTS TOps can’t access and declared that ON NO ACCOUNT SHOULD THE TRAIN ATTEMPT THE RETURN JOURNEY FROM WER.   Not only did he say it, he said it in bold and in Caps.

Going WB the train struggled to reach target speed and laboured up any incline.  When I finally reached WER there was a spare waiting to take the train into the depot and when I went to see the DTSM to ask what I was to do there were loads of WER TOps sat around for want of trains.  I ended up riding the cushions all the way back to LES on the next EB train and even ahead of the evening peak it was certainly noticeable that the platforms more crowded than usual.

When I went to pick up my second half there was still no explanation as to why so many shoes had become detached but hopefully they’ve sorted it out otherwise there might not be a train for me to drive.  The horror, the horror...........

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Unsurprisingly TSSA voted for strike action so it is possible that from noon on 4th February until noon on 6th February all station staff will stop booking on, which means that while stations will be open on Tuesday morning they might start shutting down from around 3pm with nothing open on Wednesday and Thursday.  It will simply be a question of how many staff decide to ignore the strike and how many office wallahs LUL can persuade to step into the gaps.

To make things even more difficult the DLR will be on strike over the same days, well done Serco and TfL for allowing that situation to reach crisis point at exactly the same time.  However it does seem that the RMT TOps will not be joining the strike so we’ll all be there, we just might not be able to stop the trains anywhere.  I don’t know what the situation is regarding Control Room or Technical staff but if they are coming out too that could make things very complicated.

LUL have trotted out the usual line that they are prepared to discuss things if RMT and TSSA call off the strike which begs the obvious question of why they didn’t feel it necessary to consult with the unions before announcing their plans .  Sadly the obvious answer is that as far as LUL are concerned there is nothing to discuss, they know full well that any reduction to staff numbers will be rejected by the unions but LUL will proceed with their master plan despite objections, just as they did three years ago.

So passengers will struggle, staff won’t get paid for the days they fail to show up, Boris and the rest will bellow about the unions, management will carry on regardless in the secure knowledge that there is absolutely no threat to their jobs and I am so, so glad I got out of stations when I did.

Addenda 18:18

Okay I’ve re-read the thing on the RMT website and I’ve made a bit of an error.  Station staff will stop working at noon on 4th February and not start again until noon on 6th February while RMT TOps will not book on for duties between those hours.  That's what you get for trying to write a blog post while making lunch and hanging out the washing.

Addenda 18:40

As someone pointed out the strikes will now run from 9pm until 9pm.   I should take this post down and start again but frankly I just can't be arsed.

Tuesday 14 January 2014

I will admit that I am not the sharpest tool in the box, I’m not the dullest either but sometimes being of middling intelligence can be intensely frustrating.  I will never be a great debater, certain aspects of philosophy still elude me and at times my inarticulacy can be infuriating, sometimes I struggle to remember the word “inarticulacy” as my dear friend Treacle can testify (our first “encounter” was quite a struggle but God bless her for being persistent).  To my credit I am a ponderer, give me enough time to contemplate a subject and I will eventually spot something that I would have initially overlooked.  Thankfully spending large portions of my working day staring down a dark tunnel with only four rails stretching out in front of me into the gloom and the occasional signal to check I get plenty of time with my own thoughts.

One of the main concerns about the changes to staffing on stations seems to be with the “Local B” stations that will lose Supervisors and be staffed by a CSA.  I’ve read numerous comments voicing the concern that when the CSA goes on their meal break the station will be unstaffed but unless things have changed in the last ten years I would imagine that in future exactly the same will happen as happens now when the Super goes on a meal break.  There will be a rostered “meal break” duty or two, travelling from station to station filling in for half an hour at each except that rather than it being a Super it will be a CSA and in a pinch the roving CSM2 can cover.

There will now be night turn CSAs although whether they will be able to book on contractors working on the station is another matter, the CSM2 will probably be there which would mean only one station can be worked on each night.  When you consider the extra CSAs that will be needed to cover night turns and the roving “meal break” then even after an increase of 276 to 2500 with the addition of 486 CSA2s and the few SAMFs who’ve transformed into CSS(ticket hall) I doubt if there will be much difference in the number of bodies actually working out on the stations at any given time.  So while LUL can truthfully claim that they are moving people out from behind glass and sticking them in the ticket halls there will be a lot more for them to do.

An important issue is that every member of staff has to book on for duty with someone so that whoever is doing the booking on can assess if the person is fit for duty, exactly how that will be managed if there’s only one CSM covering several stations and CSAs booking on at the same time at each station remains to be seen.  One solution will be for every CSA to book on at a given station in an “Area” and then travel to the station they are going to work at, the only disadvantage would be that they would need “travelling time” at the start and end of each duty which reduces the amount of time they would actually spend working on stations.

Over on trains we have the question of how to staff 24 hour running at weekends.  At the moment we have six night duties on the Central Line, two at HAI, three and a spare at LES, each working seven night shifts a week followed by a week of three lates and four rest days.  Under “Night Tube” the aim is to run a train every 15 minutes which would mean a dozen trains needed on the Central Line to cover HAI – EAB, at a rough guess would need 15, maybe 16 TOps plus a few spares.  As the EPP and WER branches will not be operating I doubt if LOU or WER will be providing staff so that leaves LES, HAI and WHC.

The obvious question is what to do with all those extra night duties during the week when we aren’t running 24 hours, there’s only so many last trains they can stable and first trains they can bring out before the 8 hour maximum starts to get stretched and there’s no point having loads of spares sitting around kicking their heels.  Someone suggested that we might have weeks where you worked lates  with two nights at weekend but I suspect that in future a week of nights will be five shifts and two rest days with everyone working on Friday and Saturday which means the loss of the very attractive three day week afterwards.

All ponderings, things might work out totally different, we’ll just have to wait until 2015 to see how the great scheme actually works or if it works at all.

Saturday 11 January 2014

RMT have announced strikes on 4/5 and 10/11 February which gives TSSA time to have their ballot and hold joint strikes should they vote in favour but I’ve been hearing something strange around the mess rooms.  Apparently RMT have told their TOps that they will not be asked to go out on strike or form picket lines outside depots which if true means that while trains will be running it will be a case of how many stations will be open.

Maybe RMT are thinking that if they involved the TOps  LUL would try to stop the strike through the courts, keeping it stations only means there are no loopholes that LUL could try to exploit.  I really don’t know, perhaps the rumours are false and in a few weeks’ time I’ll be strolling up to the depot gates to find my RMT colleagues stood there with banners asking me not to cross the picket line.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

Friday 10 January 2014

Unsurprisingly RMT have voted in favour of striking over the job cuts, a 43% turnout voted 76% in favour of strike action so no doubt at some point in the near future Richard “baboon’s arse” Tracey will start shouting that a minority is holding London to ransom.  RMT could call a strike as early as next Friday but they'd be doing so without TSSA who announced they’d be balloting their members today.  The results won’t be known until 27th January so the earliest they could go on strike is 3rd February and I think it's unlikely that RMT will waste a strike day when they could be more effective holding joint action as they did in 2010.  Regardless LUL aren't going to back down on this, just like 2010 the strikes will eventually be called off when support starts to fade.

Around the depots I’ve heard some RMT members point out that fewer staff will mean fewer contributions to our pension fund and complaining that ASLEF are doing nothing about it.  Sadly as no ASLEF members will be losing their jobs we can’t vote for strike action, if we did then LUL would simply go to the courts to get an injunction and unlike the Boxing Day dispute where they failed they would be likely to succeed.  ASLEF are looking at the safety implications but until we can find a legitimate reason to object to the changes there’s little we can do other than not cross the picket lines when the strike happens.

Addenda.  I wrote too soon, The Dick has already spoken.

"RMT seems to be doing everything in its power to block innovation and progress on our tube network, while making sure their members pockets are lined with up to £62K salaries to drive trains, some of which are driverless capable, and bribes just to do their job on public holidays".

Ok, how many mistakes in that sentence can you spot?

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Boriswatch noted yesterday that the plan to convert the Sub Surface Lines from manual driving to ATO has come to a shuddering halt as after two years of trying to get things to work Bombardier (pronounced the French way; Bom-bar-dee-yay, they're Canadian) has had to admit that their Cityflo signalling system (as used on Madrid Line 1, Line 6 and Shenzhen Line 3, all single lines with no branches) is unable to cope with the complexities of the Circle, District, Met and H&C.  So the SSL won't be going ATO by 2018 and there will still be a TOp on the handle until around 2021 which must come as a bit of a blow to the hopes of infamous dingo's gonad squeezer AM Richard Tracey as the arrival of driverless trains recedes even further and further into the future (can something recede into the future?  Discuss).

Bizarrely I have just discovered that "Dick" Tracey and I share the same birthday but to my shameless satisfaction he is 18 years my senior.  As I'm sure the prospect of more train drivers in future rather than less will irk him greatly I can only think of Kathleen Tuner's lines from the wonderful "The man with two brains"

"I love to see those veins in your temple throb……I get so excited when you get angry, it makes me feel so much closer to the reading of the will."