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  • Finn Brennan

L.U. management look for confrontation not compromise !

You senior ASLEF reps are having to deal with a range of industrial relations and Health and Safety issues where it seems clear that management are actively seeking to provoke a dispute.

Outstanding issues from the 2015 pay settlement;

As part of the 2015 pay deal, LU agreed to set up a Company Council Sub Group (CCSG) to agree ways of giving staff more choices over working patterns, improved work life balance and find new way to resource weekend working.

During the pay talks, it was recognised that this could be complicated, so a deliberately long time scale was allowed to achieve this, with implementation from July 1st 2017. But despite months of meetings, we are no closer to reaching an agreement. ASLEF’s view is that management are deliberately stalling and frustrating the process and only putting forward proposals that they know will be unworkable, while rejecting options put forward by staff side.

For example, having committed to give train operators the opportunity to reduce the number of days worked, management are now saying that anyone wanting to do this, would have to go into the pool and work average 7 hour shifts. This would mean finding out on at lunch time on a Thursday which shift and what depot you were working at on Sunday, and the loss of six additional annual leave days.

This is clearly not an improvement in work life balance. In fact, it is a proposal designed to make it virtually impossible for anyone to work more flexibly without giving up complete control over the ability to plan ahead.

Management have also refused to engage in any discussion about how a four day, 36 hour week roster could be extended to other areas that want it, after the successful trial on the Jubilee line. They also seem to be trying to back out of the commitment to “maintain the same percentage of weekends off within rosters as the service expands and the same percentage of Saturday/ Sunday rest days” by failing to come to an agreed way forward on new ways to resource weekend working.

ASLEF and the other trade unions accepted the pay and conditions settlement in good faith. We cannot accept managements attempt to back out of the commitments they made by putting forward unreasonable proposals and refusing to implement changes. If we allow LU to simply walk away from agreements, then all assurances about our future pay and conditions are thrown into doubt.

On Wednesday (June 14th) we met with management at Director level to make sure they were very clear about our concerns. A follow up meeting has been arranged for next week.

Service over safety and the HOT procedure.

Your senior H&S reps have repeatedly raised concerns that the pressure to keep the service running and avoid lost customer hours (LCR’s) has led to decisions being made that seem to prioritise service over safety. At a time like this when tensions are high, it is of course important not to create a climate of fear. But this must not be used as an excuse for bullying staff into acting unsafely or taking unnecessary risks.

There are clear recent examples of this service over safety culture. On the District line, a train on which it had been reported that a passenger might be a danger to the public, was moved into sidings with passengers kept on board. On the Northern line a driver who was deemed to have been rude to a member of station staff who took a suspicious rucksack from his train, has been charged with gross misconduct. ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan has written to London Underground to make clear that disciplinary action against our member will bring LU into dispute.

ASLEF H&S reps have also repeatedly pointed out to management that we believe they are failing in their duty to provide adequate safety briefings to staff. This was apparent in the failure at many locations to properly brief train staff on the “bladed weapon” and “lone shooter” guidelines issued last year.

But when a bulletin from the Transport Commissioner was issued saying that all staff were expected to be aware of the “WHAT” procedure, when this had never been issued to train drivers and even senior H&S reps were unaware of its existence, it became obvious that management are now barely even paying lip service to their responsibility to ensure staff are properly briefed and trained.

LU also want to push through changes to the HOT procedure that will mean any unattended package or bag will have to be opened before being declared suspicious. At a special meeting to discuss these issues, we made very plain to management that it is no part of a train drivers role to open and examine rucksacks or bags, and the changes to the HOT procedure were completely unacceptable to us. While the service over safety culture persists, we simply cannot rely on LU senior management to do the right thing. A full report is being prepared for the ASLEF Executive Committee and detailed guidance on keeping safe will be distributed to members. We will also be urgently raising our concerns directly with the Mayor’s office.

Removal of water points.

Despite advising passengers to carry water at all times, LU seem to be actively removing access to water points for drivers. All local H&S reps have been asked to report to the Trains H&S Council on the provision of chilled drinking water at booking on and tea points and at reversing locations.

To do your job safely it’s important to be properly hydrated. If you need to top up with water remember to follow the rule book procedure when requesting a PNR.

Removal of detrainment staff.

Following resolutions from many branches, the ASLEF E.C. have informed LU that if they attempt to bring in new detrainment procedures, commonly known as “flash and dash”, without agreement they will be in dispute with this union.

An ad-hoc Directors meeting has been arranged to discuss this and a report will be sent out after that meeting.

Release for training.

There is no clearer example of managements intention to conduct industrial relations by confrontation instead of compromise and agreement, than their decision to refuse release for training to newly elected IR reps. ASLEF will pursue this via the machinery but also legally.

Any employer who wants a constructive relationship with its trade unions knows that having well trained and informed reps is vital to achieving this. Sadly, this seems to be something London Underground is no longer interested in.

Getting ready for a confrontation?

Given the range of issues we are having to deal with and the approach the company is taking, it seems clear that they intend to provoke confrontation. Their hope seems to be that the ballot thresholds imposed by the Trade Union act will make it too difficult for us to defend our agreements and conditions at work.

We have to be ready to show them they are wrong. Its vital that every branch secretary makes sure that all addresses and contact details are checked and changes reported to Head Office with all reps and branch officers helping where needed to make this happen.

But there are also many new drivers now in training or recently passed out who need to be recruited to the union and kept informed on the issues that affect them at work. Again, this can’t just be a job for one person. Branch Secretaries need to coordinate reps and active members to make sure that every new driver is approached and invited to join ASLEF.

A strong well organised trade union that does not seek confrontation for its own sake, but is prepared to take action when it is needed is the only protection for our future.

Senior reps will be discussing how to deal with this early next week and reporting to District Council and branches. Please attend your branch to have your say and keep up to date.

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