LT Equalities

Mindful bosses?

Published on: Sun, 18/08/2019 - 22:26

TfL has partnered with “mindfulness” app Headspace to give staff a free subscription. Headspace’s guided meditation programmes are meant to help us deal with workplace stress.

It’s a nice gesture, but it rings a little hollow when you consider Occupational Health counselling services have been slashed as part of “Transformation”. Despite frequent articles in Off The Move patting themselves on the back for how enlightened they are about mental health, LU still repeatedly put pressure on workers off sick with stress or other mental health issues to come back before we’re ready, and fails to make adequate adjustments for us when we are at work.

The main drivers of workplace stress are factors for which our bosses are substantially to blame. Cuts and de-staffing means fewer of us are doing more work, with increasingly fatigue-inducing shift patterns. A few sessions with Headspace isn’t going to fix this. Cutting the working week and employing hundreds more staff might help.

We have a grim sense of inevitability that at someone’s case conference in the not-too-distant future, we’ll hear a manager saying “no, I can’t accommodate your request for reduced hours, a seated role, flexible working, or time off work... but have you tried Headspace?”

Rather than trying to mollify us with a free app, why not take real steps to make our workplaces less stressful?

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Tampongate

Published on: Tue, 23/07/2019 - 11:26

Did you know your period costs you less if you work in a head office building?

For those of us that need to purchase sanitary products whilst at work, it has come to light that machines provided in female staff toilets charge different rates depending on where you work.

For example, if you work at Palestra it costs 50p compared to on tube stations where the cost varies between £1 and £2.

The company has “assured” us that prices across the network are being “standardised” to £1, but Tubeworker believes these products should be provided for free. In fact we believe there is a much bigger debate to be had.

For those of us that have periods, easy access to wash facilities and free or affordable sanitary products are critical to ensuring dignity at work. Disciplining someone for taking time off work for having a period is also immeasurably wrong and something we should be rallying against. The lack of female reps in senior positions is a major reason why these issue don’t get enough attention and we hope you think so too!

Here are three simple things we can do help:

1) Raise this issue with your local reps and demand that local management provide sanitary products for free out of their own budget. This already happens in some local areas.

2) Educate yourself about the issues women face in the work place, do your own research and speak to us.

3) Ask your local rep to do an audit of toilet and mess facilities, speak to staff and get their views on what barriers might be in the way and that make it difficult to have a period in an operational environment.

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Bucking the trend?

Published on: Mon, 25/03/2019 - 21:28

Around International Women's Day, 8th March, LUL's intranet and company magazine, On the Move, featured women who are 'bucking the trend' by working in male-dominated roles - technical officer, service control manager, track maintenance.

But why are women still a minority in LUL when we are 51% of London's population?

In 2016, TfL commissioner, Mike Brown set TfL the target of reflecting the capital's own diversity by 2020. It is failing miserably. In the most recent stats available (2017), women were 23.4% of TfL's workforce and only 17.1% at LUL - 15.6% in operational grades. The percentage of women at LUL, particularly in operational grades, has fallen since 2016 - perhaps as women have been squeezed out during Fit for the Future.

When they are released, we expect TfL's 2019 figures to be even more damning because they will show the impact of TfL's Transformation program, which cut jobs in traditionally female-dominated areas, such as administration.

That women are such a minority in an organisation that boasts of diversity speaks of a deeply sexist culture and a discriminatory work environment that concedes too little to our caring and life commitments outside work.

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More Than Glossy Mags Needed

Published on: Sat, 10/02/2018 - 17:44

Another month, another edition of On The Move prominently featuring mental health issues. We're glad LU is giving a platform to discussions about mental health, but words are not enough. Often, the message doesn't seem to filtering down to the shop floor.

Almost all union reps, and far too many members, will have had direct experience of being involved in case conferences or other attendance-related meetings where the manager's attitude to mental health amounts to a thinly veiled "pull yourself together". All too common are demands for fixed time-frames for being able to return to full duties when we've been off with a mental health related issue, as if we can say, "yes, I'll be cured of depression or anxiety in two weeks."

Within an increasingly corporate culture based on austerity budgets, our employer sees us as numbers on spreadsheet to make sure stations stay open, trains are driven, projects are worked on, and targets are hit. As much as it likes to claim it's taking a sensitive and constructive attitude to mental health, actually giving us the time and support we need to manage our mental health problems is all too often sacrificed on the altar of "business needs".

And this is to say nothing of the wider reality that the general way in which many managers treat their staff is itself a factor in damaging our mental health, leading to wider problems.

We'll be more inclined to take the On The Move articles seriously when we see this culture changing on the ground.

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Organise against sexual harassment at work!

Published on: Mon, 20/11/2017 - 11:52

Sexual harassment affects huge numbers of women workers, including on LU. We must organise to stop it.

What is sexual harassment?

In law it is “unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”.

This ranges from jokes about a person’s body to inappropriate touching to propositions for sex. Some people are unaware that their behaviour could be classed as sexual harassment; you might think, “it was only a joke” or, “I was just paying a compliment”. But just because you didn’t intend to sexually harass someone doesn’t mean that you didn’t. The “effect” on the recipient matters. It’s about how it feels on the receiving end (see image).

Is it just women who experience sexual harassment?

Harassment in the Workplace” report states that in Europe women are three times more likely than men to experience sexual harassment and that perpetrators are overwhelmingly male.

Sexual harassment is a product and a part of this sexist society in which women have not yet won equality at work, at home, in popular culture and almost every strand of life.

Is it just about men vs. women?

No, it’s also about power. Sexual harassment happens when power hierarchies in the workplace mix with the power imbalance between men men and women in society.

Men often have power over women at work. MPs and celebrities have recently been exposed for using their power and influence to act inappropriately to subordinates.

In our industry, managers and supervisors are often male. We also work in a male-dominated environment, which gives men a kind of “strength in numbers” and a power to use sexual harassment to make women feel very unwelcome in our workplaces.

If no-one’s talking about it, then we’ve not got a problem in our workplace, right?

Wrong! Sexual harassment is widespread but rarely reported and talked about.

According to the 2016 TUC report, 4 out of 5 women polled did not report sexual harassment to their employer and only 1% reported it to their union rep.

As you see from the picture, there are so many reasons not to talk about it. Sexual harassment is confusing, intimidating, isolating.

You feel you’re making a big deal out of nothing. If we look at where we work, how many of us can honestly say that they’ve never been witness to sexual banter?

Just because no one objected publicly doesn’t mean it was OK.

What do we do about it?

DON’T DO IT! You might think you know someone really well and that you have a relationship where “banter” is acceptable. But how can you know what that person is really feeling? If the person on the receiving end doesn’t object, they might be unwilling to be confrontational while feeling very uncomfortable at the same time.

Even if the individual you’re talking to feels OK, what kind of message does it send to other women who work with you if these kinds of comments are commonplace?

CAMPAIGN! Our unions need to campaign. Every workplace needs a poster with a clear message: sexual harassment is not welcome here! Serious campaigns from our unions could encourage us to challenge our ideas and shift workplace cultures in which sexual banter is seen as acceptable.

BELIEVE WOMEN! There is a stereotype of women making false allegations of sexual harassment to ruin men's reputations. This stereotype clouds judgement.

For every false allegation there are countless women suffering in silence for fear of not being believed. When an allegation is made, management and unions should proceed on the basis that the allegation is genuine.

Sexual harassment often occurs in a one-on-one setting, so it’s often “his word against hers”. A woman may not have witnesses or hard evidence but that doesn’t mean that she is lying!

SUPPORT WOMEN! Our unions need to support women who want to make complaints of sexual harassment.
This includes: providing a trained, impartial person to talk to in confidence; listening to the outcome that the complainant wants; arranging legal support. Tubeworker supporters are working on getting RMT to draw up best practice guidelines for supporting sexual harassment cases.

Sexual harassment is intimidating and isolating: unions need to be clear that you do not have to suffer it on your own.


Cleaning workers

Sexual harassment is rife amongst the cleaning grade.

The TUC survey found that women without permanent contracts were more likely to experience sexual harassment and that there was a correlation between harassment and casualisation with women on irregular or precarious contracts more susceptible.

Contracted-out, often agency cleaners are very vulnerable to sexual harassment from supervisors and managers who are often men. With insecure employment, women fear speaking up in case they lose their jobs.

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In the Sexism Club?

Published on: Thu, 13/04/2017 - 11:25

LUL managers appear to think they are in the TV series 'Life on Mars' as they have woken up in the 1970s (or even earlier) and banned pregnant women from driving trains. They have thrown a particular woman - Kyria Pohl - off her Train Operator training course, and stated that yes, this is because they will no longer allow pregnant women to be in training or to drive a train.

Note to management: PREGNANCY IS NOT AN ILLNESS. Moreover, every pregnancy is different, and while some women may need to avoid particular work tasks while they are expecting, many do not. It is not management's job to treat women staff as though they are fragile and/or incapable: it is to protect their safety and respect their rights. Instead, the company seems determine to deny pregnancy women their dignity and rights - and in the case of trainees such as Kyria, their income as well: being kicked of the course means not getting T/Op training rates of pay, then full rates once passed out.

Fortunately for Kyria, she has a strong and effective union rep at her side, and RMT lawyers are already looking at this case. After all, it is unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of pregnancy.

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Go, Look, Sexism

Published on: Wed, 08/02/2017 - 10:09

A set of Bostwick gates at Victoria is dragging rather more than it ought to, so management have come up with an ingenious solution - women staff are not to handle the gates.

Yes, you read that right. In the sort of blatant, in-your-face sexism that is rarely seen these days (not because there is little sexism, but because it is usually less blatant), a 'Go Look See' visit has come up with this pitiful response.

Tubeworker reminds management that if it's not safe for women to handle the gates, then it's not safe for men to handle them either. Fix the gates. And fix the sexism.

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Get Sick, Get Sacked?

Published on: Mon, 21/03/2016 - 14:52

Two recent cases of what might well amount to disability discrimination have shed further light on how LU treats its staff.

Two workers "failed" their probations, both due to attendance issues related to serious physical conditions. (Read more here.)

Behind empty phrases about its "duty of care" and commitment to equal opportunities, the fact is that LU treats sickness punitively. It punishes us for getting ill.

It doesn't matter whether we have doctors' notes to certify that the sickness is legitimate; it doesn't matter if the sickness is directly related by the deleterious health impacts of working extreme shifts in a dirty, industrial environment. Apart from a few selectively-interpreted exemptions, LU's attitude is that if you get sick, that's a disciplinary matter. Union reps do their best to get people reduced warnings, but many managers interpret the attendance policy as basically automatic: if you "breach" the "satisfactory standard" (missing more than one shift in any six-month period), you risk a six-month warning. Two more sick days in those next six months, it could be a one-year warning. Go sick again and your job's on the line.

Think about that policy again for a minute: if you get sick for more than four days over the course of an entire year, your job could be in jeopardy. In what sense is that fair or reasonable?

Some managers presumably think they need to threat of disciplinary action to act as a deterrent. But in fact, the policy encourages absenteeism. It only takes two sick days to "trigger" the attendance policy; if we know we're likely to be disciplined anyway, why not take more time off?

Our jobs make us sick. It's undeniable. We work in dirty environments, breathing in polluted air. Many of us spend hours on our feet. Some of us work manually, with heavy equipment, risking injury. We work shifts that mess up our sleeping and eating patterns. It's inevitable that we're going to get sick. Our employer should support us, not discipline us.

No-one should be punished for being ill. No-one should feel like they have to drag themselves to work when they're unwell, possibly making themselves worse, because they're worried about being disciplined for calling in sick.

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"Crime" down but assaults are up

Published on: Thu, 20/08/2015 - 08:53

LU's employee communications have implied we should feel grateful that it is bothering to get extra police for Night Tube at a time when "crime on LU is at an all-time low".

LU is on another planet! "Low crime" is no comfort when assaults on Tube staff have increased by 44% and sexual assaults on passengers have risen by over 30% in the last year.

LU cannot continue to dismiss our concerns for personal and passenger safety surrounding Night Tube.

Tubeworker topics

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STOP PRESS: LU sacks worker for having a disability. Reinstate Karen Guyott now!

Published on: Wed, 25/02/2015 - 14:03

London Underground has "medically terminated" (i.e., sacked) a disabled worker... for having a disability.

Karen Guyott worked as a Customer Service Assistant on Jubilee Line stations. She has epilepsy, but with "reasonable adjustments" was perfectly able to perform her role. The adjustments included restricting Karen from working on live tracks: CSAs never work on live tracks anyway. Her stations have "Platform Edge Doors", which restrict access to the track anyway. Karen was also restricted from working in machine chambers: CSAs never work in machine chambers anyway. So, in other words, her disability only "restricted" her from duties that were not part of her grade's job. There's been no issue for five years.

But LU has suddenly decided that Karen's situation is "unsustainable", and she has been sacked. This is clear discrimination against a worker for having a medical condition.

In October, RMT called off planned strikes because the union secured a promise from the company that any medically-restricted staff affected by upcoming "Fit for the Future" changes would be protected. But LU have used a questionnaire that Karen (along with all other staff) had to fill out as part of the "Fit for the Future" "location preferencing" process as part of their "evidence" for sacking her.

In an obscene twist, LU bosses were doing press work just one day before sacking Karen, puffing themselves up as an ethical employer helping make disability discrimination a thing of the past. One day later, they're helping keep it very much alive.

The company has always said that "Fit for the Future" wouldn't lead to currently-employed workers losing their jobs, and that the planned reduction in the staffing level would be managed through voluntary severance and relocation. That claim has been exposed as nonsense; they have used the "Fit for the Future" process to discriminate against and sack a disabled member of staff.

To win reinstatement for Karen, and for other unfairly sacked colleagues like Noel Roberts and Alex McGuigan, and to slam the brakes on the "Fit for the Future" jobs massacre, we need more strikes as soon as possible.

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