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………..


  1. So at a time when the law on flexible working has changed and, indeed, become more flexible, LU decide to do away with part-time staff. Mind you, the same general confrontational and macho attitude is happening right across TfL. No wonder office staff have been on strike for the first time ever, for three separate days so far.

  2. RMT says "virtually all existing part time positions are to be removed" which I assume means that a few will be retained but how many and where I have no idea.

  3. When news of strike action on the Underground hits the media, all Underground/TfL staff are lumped together regardless of union membership, role or the cause/reason(s)... the media merely rant on about yet another Underground strike...!!

    With Bob having taken his place on a picket line in the sky (and I say that with respect), its essential that the unions choose the fights that they think are important, not taking the POV of one out, all out brothers/sisters are the first opportunity. At the same time they shouldn't capitulate and give in. They need to make their case very firmly, honestly and openly highlighting the fact that LU seem to be shooting themselves in the foot by reducing staff levels at outer stations.

    Where is Deep Thought when you need him ???!!!

    Just so long as the Underground isn't left with 42 staffed stations...!!!!