Disputes

Threat Of Strikes Forces New Offer From LU: Keep Strikes On To Win More!

Published on: Sun, 29/01/2017 - 21:57

RMT has named new strike dates in the station staffing dispute, from 18:00 on 5 February to 10:00 on 6 February, and from 10:00 on 7 February to 00:59 on 8 February.

In response, LU has made us a new offer. They're proposing to reinstate 325 jobs, re-staff most (but not all) the control rooms they de-staffed, and establish a promotion pathway to CSA1 for existing CSA2s.

This all requires a bit of unpicking.

Firstly, let's remind ourselves of the basic lesson here: direct action gets the goods. LU is only making a new offer because of our ongoing overtime ban, our magnificent strike on 8-9 January, and the threat of further action to come.

We've already pushed the bosses a long way. When this dispute began, they were intransigent, insisting that not a single job cut would be reversed, and that the CSA2 grade was non-negotiable. One month into an overtime ban and suddenly they were offering 250 jobs. A fortnight after our strike, and that number had increased again. Under pressure from the threat of further strikes, suddenly they've started budging on the CSA2 issue as well.

Let's look at the detail of the offer, though: is 325 jobs enough to address the crisis of under-staffing and lone working? Is anything short of a commitment that all control rooms will be staffed satisfactory? And does the promotion pathway for CSA2s (the wording of which in the text of the offer is profoundly ambiguous) go for enough towards resolving the huge problems created by the creation of a two-tier CSA grade?

Tubeworker's answers are no, no, and no.

It is, however, undeniable that this latest offer is a vast leap forward for our bosses, considering their position when we began the dispute. Should we therefore react by saying, "they're meeting us halfway, let's return the favour and call off our strike"? This did indeed seem to be the attitude of TSSA leaders in response to an earlier, worse, offer to resolve the dispute (luckily they were forced to keep their action on thanks to a revolt by workplace reps and activists).

Whether being met "halfway" would be worth settling for is arguable in itself (Tubeworker would argue not). But this offer doesn't even do that. 325, while a significant improvement on zero, is still fewer than half the jobs axed under "Fit for the Future". We might not end up with everything we want, but why would we let the bosses up off the ropes when we've got all the momentum and it's clear they're vulnerable to pressure?

If anything, we should increase it. Tubeworker endorses the motion, passed at a recent RMT Bakerloo Line branch meeting, which argues that further strikes should:

  • Be longer than 48 hours
  • Seek to maximise disruption, for example by taking place on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday
  • Involve Night Tube staff, with at least one strike day starting or finishing at 23:01 on a Friday
  • Be announced as part of an ongoing programme of action, also involving demos, rallies etc., similar the approach RMT has pursued in the dispute on Southern
  • Coordinate as much as possible with other disputes, including the Central Line Drivers’ dispute and the Southern dispute.
  • We like that RMT is taking a creative approach to the next strikes, calling out particular shifts to maximise disruption in the morning and evening peak but minimising the number of days' pay members will lose. Tubeworker has argued for this creative approach to action for some time and we're glad to see it taken up. If swiftly followed by further action, either additional selective strikes or further all-out strikes, we're confident we can push the employer even closer to conceding our demands.

    The public rally the RMT plans on 1 February is also an excellent initiative that could help situate our industrial dispute in a wider struggle for safe, accessible public transport.

    All in all, Tubeworker reckons we're a long way from having to settle for a compromise deal. Station staff are still up for the fight, so let's keep the strikes on and push for more!

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    Ballot Imminent on Fleet: Strike Against Job Cuts!

    Published on: Wed, 18/01/2017 - 22:58

    RMT has declared a new dispute on fleet, as management tries to pull a fast one with job cuts and breaching agreements.

    A union statement cites "ongoing attacks at various levels", such as:

  • Not consulting or negotiating with this Union about reducing staff numbers within Fleet
  • Breaching our agreement on Night Tube and their failure to recruit the additional staff to cover this job
  • Actively attacking our Reps for carrying out their duties
  • Not following the correct process when seeking to change rosters
  • Removing a very long and established practice of ‘phone in days’ throughout Fleet without full and meaningful consultation
  • Station staff will undoubtedly hear echoes of their own struggles here. Failing to increase the staffing level, despite an increased workload, and indeed cutting jobs will be familiar to many. And the abuse of procedures and breaching agreements parallel recent drivers' disputes on the Picc, H&C, and Central.

    Tubeworker encourages all fleet members to vote yes to strikes and action short once the ballot gets underway. Reps and activists across all grades should be looking for ways to link up and coordinate the disputes.

    Tubeworker topics

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    Central Line drivers to strike against displacements

    Published on: Wed, 18/01/2017 - 22:19

    After a resounding vote in favour of action, RMT drivers at Hainault, Leytonstone, and Loughton Traincrew Depots will strike from 21:00 on Wednesday 25 January to 20:59 on Thursday 26.

    They're striking against displacements; Tubeworker previously covered the dispute here (if you're reading this article on a platform that doesn't include hyperlinks, the URL is: http://www.workersliberty.org/node/27399).

    We need strong pickets at all depots, and we hope Aslef members will respect them.

    With forced displacements now an issue on both stations and trains, our unions should look for ways to coordinate the disputes.

    Tubeworker topics

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    After historic strike, let's maintain momentum!

    Published on: Tue, 10/01/2017 - 13:40

    Yesterday's strike of station and revenue staff was historic. We showed that we have immense power when we stand together. Our strike shut down central London, putting immense pressure on the employer and exposing the depths of their staffing crisis.

    Lively pickets were mounted at stations across London, with TSSA reps and activists joining their RMT colleagues (despite TSSA's last-minute wobble!). With unity in the dispute maintained, the logic points towards one industrial union for all Tube workers.

    Fantastic solidarity was shown by other grades, with many drivers refusing to cross picket lines and many more rightly refusing to drive their trains through unstaffed, or unsafely staffed, stations.

    Support from the public on picket lines was high. With leaflets, social media, and interviews we got our message out: LU must reverse jobs cuts and properly staff stations, not with cut-price CSA2s, but with CSA1s and above, and put in place a plan for consolidating the two CSA grades upwards. If LU claim there's no money available, Mayor Khan must stop his disgraceful union bashing and join our fight to demand increased funding from central government.

    The employer is on the ropes. We have to maintain our momentum. Tubeworker would like to see further action called as soon as possible, escalating the strike beyond 24 hours and experimenting with rolling and selective strikes of different shifts to maximise impact. There is a mandate for this from previous reps' meetings, and while further meetings to plan and strategise are necessary, there is already a clear consensus for further action.

    Yesterday's strike was replete with lessons. On the job (and within RMT, as the only all-grades union on LU), today's strike should decisively kill off the idea, expressed by some in moments of despair and pessimism, that station grades have no power and must be reliant on the leverage of drivers or engineers to win concessions. We should always aspire to all-grades unity, but yesterday we proved that we can strike as station staff and shut the job down. This should embolden and empower us going forward.

    Our strike is also a little window into where power lies, and how we can change society. It's easy to feel small, to feel like a cog in a machine, when you're going through the daily grind of shifts and you're at the whim of the employer. But a day like yesterday reminds us that it doesn't have to be like that. We move London, not our bosses. The power is in our hands. As the old slogan from revolutionary France in 1968 puts it: Le patron a besoin de toi, mais tu n'as pas besoin de lui. To paraphrase the translation: our bosses need us, but we don't need them.

    There's also a lesson for other workers in our action. Although public support has been high, we'll all have experienced (whether on picket lines, on social media, at work in the run up to the strike, or down the pub) some version of the following arguments: our strikes are "selfish"; we're "holding London to ransom"; or, "I have worse job than you and you don't see me going on strike."

    These arguments, which manifest as hostile abuse, are actually expressions of resentment borne of a feeling of powerlessness. In an economy where labour is massively on the defensive against capital, where the labour movement is weak and in retreat, hostility to our strikes from other working-class people expresses resentment that they don't have the same organisation and power at work as we do.

    But they could! Of course, not every job or industry is as integral to the day-to-day functioning of London as public transport, but the key difference between us and other groups of workers is that we have a high level of union membership and that we are prepared to use our unions as tools via which to take action. We should encourage fellow members of our class to see our level of organisation, and our action, not as something to resent but as something to aspire to.

    Every striker should be congratulated for the resolve they showed yesterday. Let's push on and win our dispute!

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    Shutdown!

    Published on: Mon, 09/01/2017 - 08:54

    Pickets are in confident mood this morning, as the most effective station staff strike in memory cranks up the pressure on management.

    With hardly any trains running and few Section 12 stations open, management can not remain in denial about how strongly staff of all grades feel about the stripping away of staff from stations. The pressure is now on the company and the Mayor to make good the damage of Fit for the Future - Stations.

    The 'accepted wisdom' that station (and revenue) staff can not fight alone has been blown out of the water. First the overtime ban, and now today, have shown that we are more powerful than the picture often painted of a 'weak' group of grades.

    That said, there has been welcome solidarity from other grades, especially drivers, with significant numbers refusing to cross picket lines and other refusing to drive on safety grounds. As well as showing basic solidarity to their workmates, drivers are acting in their own interests by doing this. Immediately, an incident on the road in today's conditions would be a night mare; in the longer term, the harder a fight we give LUL over FftF-Stations, the more reticent the company will be to plough ahead with Fit for the Future - Trains.

    With driverless trains being designed at built right now, the fight to defend jobs is an all-grades battle. We can have effective grade-specific action, but we can have even more effective cross-grade action.

    RMT and TSSA striking together has kept the action solid. TSSA's wobble over the weekend was put right by its rank-and-file reps and members telling their officials in no uncertain terms that they were going to remain part of the strike. So much for media claims of 'union bosses ordering staff to strike' - at least in TSSA's case, it was the other way round!

    Although we are getting the usual anti-union cliches in the media and the vox pops, we are getting a lot of support too, and the union case is being put over well where it gets the space to do so.

    If we go straight from the picket lines to the naming further strikes, we can push this forward to a win. If we don't - if our unions wait for management to move or appear uncertain about what to do next - then our momentum will wane and we risk snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

    There is a lot at stake here - our work-life balance, our safety at work, hundreds of jobs, the service we provide. It deserves the most effective possible campaign.

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    "New offer"? Hardly. Support the strikes!

    Published on: Sat, 07/01/2017 - 19:18

    Hastily-convened 11th-hour talks between LU and the unions in the station staffing dispute produced an interesting development today.

    Under the leadership of their General Secretary Manuel Cortes, TSSA suddenly sought private talks with the company, fracturing the unity that had existed thus far.

    Something odd was clearly going on at TSSA HQ; first, at 16.34, the union's official Twitter account tweeted that "last minute" talks had "failed". Then, at 17.20, they were tweeting that LU had "made a new offer".

    TSSA negotiators swiftly recommended to their reps that they suspend their strike in order to consider this.

    What's the content of this "new" offer? It amounts to an offer of 50 additional jobs, taking the total of 150 that was already on the table to 200. Everything else in the "new" offer was either already agreed or already on the table.

    It is, in short, a joke.

    There's also a story circulating, picked up on and recycled by the BBC, that RMT reps "walked out" of talks. This is total nonsense. RMT put their demands, the company refused them. The talks ended. That's not "walking out", it's leaving when something is finished. TSSA then went behind RMT's back to concoct their new deal.

    What happened to strength in unity, comrades?

    Tubeworker is independent of any union, and has supporters, contributors, and readers from all the unions which organise on LU. But we are committed to telling the truth, and to effective, militant trade unionism. We will criticise any union when we feel criticism is deserved. And TSSA's "strategy", if it can be called that, is the opposite of effective and the opposite of militant.

    Word has already reached Tubeworker HQ that many TSSA reps are telling their Regional Organiser, in no uncertain terms, that they do not want the strike suspended and fully support continuing with the action. Tubeworker urges all TSSA reps to do likewise, and urges TSSA members to lobby their reps to this effect.

    There's more to be said about this unedifying episode, including a political examination of the role of the Labour mayor Sadiq Khan, and whether TSSA's status as a "left-wing" union, which supports the Labour left network Momentum, can be meaningful when it proposes calling off strikes in this way.

    But that can wait. The key thing now is to build the action. Tubeworker urges all our readers in stations and revenue grades, whichever union they're members of, to participate in the strike.

    See you on the picket lines!

    Comments

    Submitted by neitherwashing… on Sun, 08/01/2017 - 00:35

    We've seen this before so many times, with management cutting a deal with ASLEF to undermine RMT fighting for Drivers, now they've got their maths wrong if they think TSSA with a tenth of the members of RMT will undermine our strike.

    It does speak again to the need of ONE Union for all rail workers, to stop bosses dividing us to conquer. What happened to the merger between a bankrupt TSSA and RMT? I'd heard it was the ego of the TSSA Gen Sec that prevented it but surely this dispute shows that it is only when we speak with one strong and united voice that the bosses truly listen to us!

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    When is "500" not "500"? When it's 150.

    Published on: Fri, 06/01/2017 - 19:06

    LU's bulletin issued following the conclusion of Acas talks (see below) is completely misleading. Their headline figure is that they "will recruit 500 new staff into stations this year", but as they admit immediately afterwards, only 150 of these will be additional. 350 of the jobs will be the natural turnover that LU always recruits to cover natural wastage (people retiring or leaving the job, moving jobs, being promoted, etc.).

    So the offer amounts to: 150 additional jobs. That's only a fraction of the 900-odd jobs they cut as part of "Fit for the Future". And a significant proportion of those 150 will be CSA2 positions, who can't perform safety critical tasks but who represent a massive saving for the company as they're paid £7,000 less than CSA1s!

    So in terms of fully safety-trained staff who can perform the full range of tasks required on the station, it's a lot less than 150.

    LU say they'll "double recruitment", but without increasing the establishment - i.e., inserting additional jobs into rosters - the rate of recruitment won't change much.

    They say they've agreed to a "detailed review", but this was agreed to months ago, when "Fit for the Future" was implemented, so is hardly part of a new offer.

    Offering "increased promotional opportunities" is all well and good, but this doesn't address the fundamental issue that there simply aren't enough staff on stations to run things safely.

    If LU want to resolve the dispute, they need to make a serious offer to reinstate hundreds of jobs at CSA1 grade and above, and move towards the consolidation of the CSA2 grade into the CSA1 grade.

    The job cuts made under "Fit for the Future" equated to nearly 20% of the frontline workforce. How can the company justify this? Have our stations become 20% smaller? Are there 20% fewer passengers? 20% fewer trains?

    No. Footfall is increasing. The workload is going up. So why are jobs being cut?

    That's the essence of this strike. Don't fall for LU's spin.

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    Comments

    Submitted by neitherwashing… on Sun, 08/01/2017 - 00:28

    A long time ago, in a galaxy far away...

    ...LU had a decent number of RCIs to protect the company's revenue. 237 in fact.

    Today there are less than 160 and the company is losing £60 million a year on fare evasion. While there are more fare dodgers than ever and they have left us with fewer staff to manage gatelines than ever there are also fewer RCIs than ever to protect our fare income and us poor sods on the gatelines.

    If they want to save £200 million quid a year maybe start by getting RCIs in to fill the vacancies and start staffing gatelines properly?

    And why haven't they filled the vacancies that have accumulated over the last 9 years? Maybe to leave a little bunce in to pay for the pathetic offer of 150 jobs out of the 838 they axed just last year and at SAMF money or less while the proper Supervisor equivalent role of RCI lies vacant.

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    Stations, revenue, Central Line west end drivers: see you on the picket lines!

    Published on: Fri, 06/01/2017 - 17:57

    With Acas talks in the station staffing dispute ending without any new offer from the company, the joint RMT/TSSA strike on stations is on for 8-9 January.

    Striking alongside station and revenue staff will be Central Line drivers at White City and West Ruislip depots, who are taking action aimed at winning the reinstatement of their unfairly sacked colleague Dean Storey.

    Withdrawing our labour is the most fundamental and effective weapon we have as workers; let's use it!

    See you on the picket lines! Details of pickets are available on the RMT London website.

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    Hell No, We Won't Go

    Published on: Fri, 23/12/2016 - 20:53

    This week, twelve drivers at Leytonstone and Hainault have received letters displacing them from their depots from January, eight of them to Earls Court. Imagine being at one of these depots, thinking it was your permanent location, then finding that you were expected to travel an extra two hours a day to get to and from work - that's ten hours a week stolen from your life.

    By management's figures, even after these displacements, they will be 24 drivers over numbers at Leytonstone, Hainault and Loughton combined - so if they get away with this first wave, there could well be more to follow.
    So it's good to see RMT balloting drivers at all three depots for strikes and action short, and we are confident that there will be a strong Yes vote. In the absence of an ASLEF ballot (perhaps the Society is less concerned because the drivers directly affected are the more junior drivers, mostly RMT members), we hope that ASLEF members will respect RMT picket lines.

    Management are punishing drivers for a problem of their - and the (previous) Mayor's - making. There are "too many" drivers in some locations because the company began recruiting drivers for Night Tube before reaching agreement with the unions as to how it was to be staffed: it recruited full-time drivers, but was then forced by union action to staff Night Tube with specific, part-time staff so as not to add more night turns to full-time drivers' rosters. When the surplus drivers were placed in depots, they didn't expect to be moved again a few years later!
    And there are "too few" drivers at other depots because management will not allow the 35 station staff who have passed interviews and assessments for driver to proceed with the training and take up the posts.

    Management claim that they can do this under existing agreements - but just because they can do it does not mean that they have to. And if they can try to displace drivers, then we can fight them! Feelings are strong among drivers on the east end of the Central line, as no-one wants to see their workmates treated like this.

    Finally, particularly as the issue of displacements is one of the aspects of the Fit for the Future - Stations dispute, co-ordinating action in the two disputes will make both more effective.

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    Passenger Information - it's in your interest to support the fightback!

    Published on: Fri, 23/12/2016 - 10:07

    As London Underground's short-staffing is exposed dramatically by our overtime ban, stations are closing left, right and centre. We can strengthen our fightback by ensuring that passengers and Londoners know exactly why this is happening.

    We can tell them that when TfL tweets blame 'staff absence', they actually mean 'staff shortage'. We can explain that because LUL has got rid of 900 staff, it doesn't have enough people left to run stations. We can warn them of the potential for serious incidents and long-term deterioration of service. We can alert them to the desperate and unsafe measures that the company is taking to keep stations open. And we can ask them to support us and help us win the restoration of axed jobs.

    Our union could do more. On Southern, union activists have put a lot of effort into winning public support - dishing out thousands of leaflets, speaking at local meetings, getting into the press, using social media. Their efforts have ensured that the majority of Southern passengers blame the disruption they face not on the workers and their unions, but on the naked greed and incompetence of Southern management, and on their Tory government backers.

    Let's see the same from our unions on London Underground.

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