Tuesday 25 August 2015

Yesterday RMT, TSSA and Unite called off this week’s strikes along with the overtime ban in what Unite’s regional officer Hugh Roberts described it as “an act of goodwill”.  However TSSA’s Manuel Cortes warned “we are not out of the woods yet” while RMT went so far as to set new possible strike dates in two weeks’ time although unless management do something amazingly brainless I’d imagine that those dates will pass without any upheaval.

None of which is surprising, calling two strikes less than three weeks after the last one without ASLEF’s support was simply a step too far and while certain RMT senior officials may be cursing that they’ve lost the chance to overthrow the capitalist system I’d imagine that most of their members are breathing a sigh of relief.  Negotiations will go on, as yet there is no date for introducing Night Tube and I think management must now be aware that should they announce one without having reached an agreement then the strikes will be back on.

Normal service is resumed, the revolution will not be televised.

Friday 21 August 2015

It’s certainly been an interesting week, I’ve heard some of my colleagues saying that no one wants to work Night Tube but I’ve had others saying that if their depot doesn’t get Night Tube they’ll put in a transfer to one that does.  I’ve heard fellow ASLEF members saying that we should all go on strike next week along with RMT members saying that the strike should be called off.  To say that opinion is mixed would certainly be an understatement.

Meanwhile at ACAS ASLEF and RMT reps have put forward a joint position to management on the Train side with more talks today but RMT say while there has been progress they will not call off the strike until an acceptable offer has been made to Engineering, Fleet, Service Control and Stations.  For myself I think the strike is unnecessary, management are retreating while the overtime ban in the depots is leading to trains being cancelled or developing faults while in service and having to be withdrawn.

Yesterday I was covering for HAI who have loads of people out sick, my first half started in the depot where the only train available was the one being used for ATOR.  On the second half they had to renumber a train that was about to go out of service at RUG to make up the second to last EPP train.  I've even heard an IOp complaining that one day both their trains were cancelled so they had to check around to see who they could take off in order to get some training done.

Night Tube has been shelved and if it happens it probably won’t be until next year, February or March have both been rumoured.  We’ve shown management what we can do if they push this issue, the strikes did their job, we don’t need to emphasise the point.

Saturday 15 August 2015

RMT issued another leaflet yesterday outlining their demands, the three main points being that “LU must stop implementing whilst talks continue” which has already been done, “a 32 hour 4 day week” which I think should have had “LOL” at the end and that “LU must address all outstanding issues of dispute between us.”  After their list of demands for Night Tube they added two demands on “Fit for Future – Stations” so more than a year after they failed to get anywhere with strikes on the issue, six months after the closure of ticket offices began and with the reorganisation of station staff well underway RMT now want to piggy back this lost cause onto the current dispute.  10 out of 10 for tenacity….

Friday 14 August 2015

Yesterday on TSSA's website their Leyton Orient supporting Gen Sec Manny Cortes said "Commons sense seems to have broken out at last. We are hopeful in this new climate that it should be possible to reach a comprehensive and fair agreement. This will allow for the implementation of a safe and secure Night Tube which will benefit all Londoners."

So it appears that ASLEF aren't alone in the opinion that it has finally dawned on management that this isn't all about the money and that they need to address their employees' concerns rather than keep throwing money at the problem if they ever want Night Tube to happen.  That's "if", there some who think that management don't want Night Tube but don't have the guts to say "No" to Boris and are using the unions to do their dirty work.  Its quite a popular theory along with "Boris is pulling their strings" and "they couldn't negotiate their way out of a paper bag". 

Rest Day; off to deepest, darkest Dagenham to see Old Mother shrugged.

Thursday 13 August 2015

Let’s remember a couple of things; firstly as far as I’m concerned the dispute is primarily over the way Night Tube is being imposed without any consultation or negotiation.  It is about our work/life balance, the increase in weekend working, the amount of rest we get after working those night shifts and seeing that those who work them were properly rewarded for the increase in antisocial hours.  Management have agreed that Night Tube will not be introduced without an agreement with ASLEF so at the moment we have no reason to strike.

Secondly ASLEF represents train drivers, it doesn’t represent station, control room or technical grades so it isn’t negotiating for them, that is the job of RMT, TSSA or Unite.  I don’t know if management’s offer has been extended to them or to other grades but if it hasn’t then it’s not up to ASLEF to get the offer extended to them.   All the reps of the four unions are there to represent their members not those of other unions, if interests coincide then that’s fine but if train drivers are not directly affected then it’s not ASLEF’s problem.

Right, that aside I think the idea of two 24 hour strikes less than three weeks after the last one is absolutely bonkers.  In the past it has been the amount of pay lost that has led to staff ignoring strike calls as we have bills to pay just like everyone else.  We get paid every four weeks, our next pay day is Wednesday 2nd September so I think these strikes come too late to be deducted from that but if not it means that staff could lose three days wages off their next pay slip.

If it does roll over onto the next pay day, 30th September, then that will already be missing two days’ pay so any additional strikes in September could be a lot less solid as staff, especially those on lower salaries like CSAs, struggle to make ends meet.  In the past we've seen RMT strikes fizzle out from "strike fatigue" so this could be two strikes too many.  If management do renege on their promise to not introduce Night Tube without agreement and ASLEF call a strike in September they could find themselves on their own.

So is this a cunning management ploy to split the unions and reduce the effectiveness of strikes or is this someone thinking they can ratchet up the strike for some reason or other, I have no idea.  Obviously at a time when management appear to be offering an olive branch to ASLEF we’re not going to throw it back in their faces, if the other unions go out on strike they’ll be doing so without us so maybe the leadership should reconsider their timing and their tactics.

Tuesday 11 August 2015

Okay colour me confused, yesterday evening the media were unanimous in declaring that yesterday’s meeting at ACAS had adjourned with little sign of progress and that further strikes were on their way.  BBC’s transport wonk Tom Edwards  even went so far as to predict that rather than a 48-hour strike which was being touted around by various sources we’d be staging two separate 24-hour strikes in one week.  This all came as a bit of a surprise as the word from our reps was that management have confirmed that the Night Tube duties would not be imposed without agreement from the union and that negotiations would resume on Wednesday.

The predictions of further strikes seems to have started quite a few hours before ASLEF passed on the positive news to it's members which leaves me wondering if the tales of doom and gloom had been prepared in advance of the yesterday’s talks breaking up.  With both TSSA and RMT muttering that Boris is running things from behind the scenes could it be that his media people are spinning stories to the press without even bothering to wait and see what the outcome is?

Monday 10 August 2015

Saturday went a bit mental, it seemed that at least once an hour we were getting “platforms and hold” calls from Wood Lane for defective trains or handles down.  In addition we were told to go Coded Manual LEY to MIE in both directions and approach STR “with more vigilance” because of a reported suicidal male at STR, one reason why PEDs will be a necessity if/when they start running driverless trains.

One of the calls turned out to be quite interesting; apparently some charming gentleman started racially abusing a fellow passenger, something there seems to have been a lot of recently.  Rather than sitting back and taking it the target of the racist diatribe punched their abuser in the face causing a certain amount of blood loss.  When the train reached MIE he staggered off the train and then started abusing the Station Super who’d come to help out before making his escape.

Unlike other recent incidents of racial abuse it doesn’t seem that that anyone bothered to film this on their mobile and stick it up on YouTube but I’ll keep an eye out as this one would probably be quite amusing.  Not that violence is the answer but some people thoroughly deserve what they get.

Friday 7 August 2015

I’ve not heard much from my favourite retard Richard Tracey for a while but he’s back with another boneheaded idea that simply demonstrates how detached from reality his brain is.  His latest wheeze is that recently retired Tube workers could be drafted in to staff a skeleton service on strike days and he even has numbers, saying that 364 train drivers have retired in the last five years.  The obvious problem is that our licences are only valid if we’ve worked a given stock on a specific line in the last six months, after that we’d need a refresher course before we could be allowed back onto the trains on our own and that would have to be conducted by the IOps who are currently working to rule like the rest of the TOps.  On top of that all the retirees would have been union members while they were working and might still be in the union so they would be unlikely to want to help break the strike.  Bless his tiny pointed head.....

Saturday 1 August 2015

10 months after LU announced Night Tube, 6 months after negotiations started, 23 days after the biggest strike on the Tube since 2002 and just 5 days before the next one LU management have presented us with its second “full and final offer”.  Or is it third?  I think the record was four “final” offers, someone should really buy a dictionary at 55 so they can look up the definition of the word “final”.

The pay offer is a 2% rise but confusingly that is made up of 1% pay rise and a £500 consolidated (i.e. counting towards our pensions) increase for running a 24 hour service.  In fact this actually means that some grades get less than 2% (Service Managers and Power Control Room Operators 1.7%) while others get more (CSA 2.7% and Technical Grade 1 3.3%).  Why not just a 2% rise?  For the next two years management are offering RPI or 1% whichever is greater which is less than we’d hoped for so room for improvement on that.

For Night Tube all grades working on lines and stations affected are offered a £500 non-consolidated bonus (not counting towards our pensions) which means that TOps at depots not working Night Tube will get it.  That in turn begs the question why not spread the shifts over all the depots that are touched by Night Tube, as it currently stands only WHC and LES will be working them on the Central Line while LOU and HAI get the bonus plus WER get the bonus without even being included on the route.

The good news is that TOps will get an extra £200 per Night Tube shift which is a step in the right direction but still does nothing to help ease the body-clock nightmare of working three lates, two nights, finishing early on Sunday morning, having the rest of Sunday as a Rest Day and back to work on Monday.  This payment will only apply during the “Transition Period” which will start when Night Tube is introduced and end with the introduction of a new timetable with either part-time TOps doing the night shifts or “fixed links” which I believe means separate rosters for TOps working Night Tube and those that don’t.

The plain fact is that few of us believe that there will ever be part time nights or fixed links and we will be stuck with these shifts for the rest of our working lives.  If management had any intention of introducing either of those then why did they not start recruiting at the end of last year when there would have been time to get them trained up for the start of Night Tube?  They’ve recruited part time CSAs to cover stations over night, they could just have easily done so with TOps.  Instead we’ve have been sent an extra 137 TOps across the five lines affected, just enough to expand the roster to cover Night Tube and if we were to get more TOps for part time nights or fixed links then we’ll be overstaffed.

And then tucked away at the end of the announcement, a little nugget that has the alarm bells well and truly ringing.  Under the current agreement LU are allowed three “Special Events” per year, we run trains overnight, the shifts are voluntary and at double pay.  Usually this only happens once at New Year’s Eve although we did run overnight for the Queen’s Jubilee in 2012 but part of the pay offer is an increase to seven Special Events per year.    Now if we only ever run overnight one day a year and we’ve already got three why on earth would management want seven?  Say hello to overnight running every Sunday on a bank holiday weekend and maybe even Christmas Eve with staff staggering home around 7am Christmas morning.  Ho, ho, ho, management’s gift to staff came early and it’s bloody socks again.

Even though these Special Events are supposedly voluntary we know that if there aren’t enough volunteers then staff with the least amount of time in the grade are required to work.  After all the kerfuffle between 2010 and 2012 it was agreed that the Boxing Day service would be voluntary with anything up to a Sunday service and in 2013 we had about a quarter of TOps working, almost all volunteers.  Last year management pushed it to the limit, running what was effectively a Sunday service minus one, unsurprisingly there was nowhere near enough volunteers and despite being in the grade for 12 years I found myself on a train Boxing Day rather than watching West Ham’s traditional annual humiliation on TV with the solace of Brodie’s London Fields Pale Ale.

All this comes with vague promises to consult with the unions over our “work/life balance” after we've agreed to sign a blank cheque but this is still “jam tomorrow” and from previous experience we know that with LU its usually a case of “jam permanently postponed”.  LU can’t seem to get their heads around the concept that no matter how much money they offer us it doesn’t address our key concerns about the terms and conditions we are being asked to accept, that the whole introduction of Night Tube has been poorly planned and that if they wanted this to start in September they should have started negotiations before they announced it last year.

The offer will be rejected and with good reason, expect another strike next week.  On a lighter note a couple of Saturdays ago while waiting for the signal to clear at ROV on the inner I saw a squirrel balancing on top of the cable run lift its front leg and scratch it’s armpit with its back leg.  That was the highlight of my shift, driving a train can be very boring…….