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  • Writer's pictureFinn Brennan ASLEF Distri

As management plan attack on your working conditions and pension, your Yes vote for action is vital.

The ASLEF Executive Committee has decided to inform London Underground management that we will again be balloting our members across the combine over their failure to give us the required assurances that they will honour all existing agreements and make changes only where they are mutually agreed. We will also be balloting separately on lines where management are trying to force through “flash and dash” which forces drivers to take passengers into sidings or depots.

Why is this so important?

With government funding restrictions and passenger numbers still well below pre-pandemic levels, TfL is being forced to make big cuts to its budget. Reducing staff costs is a big part of their plan to do this. That means having fewer people to do the same amount of work.

They have already pushed through a cut of about 600 jobs in stations and forced changes to framework agreements for station grades. But they also have a target to cut £45,000,000 a year from trainside costs and to reduce the contribution to the pension scheme by cutting benefits for the future.

How will this affect me ?

Even what seems like a small change to pension arrangements now can have a huge long term impact on the income you get when you retire. While the company say that the benefits that people have accumulated up to now are protected, changes to the way benefits are calculated for the future could mean even people close to retirement lose out on the income you are expecting to receive.

But junior staff who have many years of service ahead of them have most to lose. Moving away from a final salary defined benefit scheme would mean a reduction of tens of thousands of pounds a year from the pension you will get. That’s not hyperbole or exaggeration. The examples used in the independent report drawn up by Brendan Barber showed this clearly.

The next phase of the pension review, in which management have to show their preferred option for change is due at the end of January. That means we have to be ready to take action.

What changes do the company want on Trains?

Over the last couple of weeks management have been making presentations to the Trains Council (a committee of reps elected to cover all Underground depots). Management have made it clear that they want to remove all existing agreements and start with a “clean sheet”.

Booking on in depots or sidings, reducing walking and train prep times, cutting spare coverage, moving meal reliefs to remote mess rooms without canteens and reducing the late running buffer to make them shorter, while increasing the amount of time you spend on a train without a break are just some of the things they are proposing.

Again, this is not hyperbole or exaggeration. The presentations management have given have been shared on the intranet and are available from your local rep if you haven’t seen them.

Our reps have repeatedly said that we would only be prepared to agree changes if they brought benefits for train drivers. But management aren’t proposing anything to make your working life better. Their intention is to save money by increasing the amount of time you spend in a driving cab and making you work more "flexibly".

Unless we have a strong mandate for action they will force these changes through just as they have on stations.

Why now ?

ASLEF used our previous strike votes to make sure management honoured our multi-year pay deal and to successfully stop them ignoring existing agreements. We wanted to avoid management wining a war of attrition by having our members take multiple strike days before the company put their proposals on the table. Management have always been working to a clear timetable. We know this will be a long and difficult battle. We weren’t going to fall into the trap of wearing people down before the real fight begins.

From early in the New Year, management are ramping up their plans. They want to push ahead with “flash and dash”, drivers being forced to bring passengers into sidings, despite union objections. And with their proposals for changes on trains and to the pension fund being finalised over the next two months, it is clear that the battle we have been planning for, to protect your pension and your working conditions is coming soon. We have to be ready for that fight.

What can I do ?

Every YES vote counts when we ballot for strikes. Although we have had huge majorities for action in previous ballots, we need to increase the number of people who vote. Remember, a voting paper not returned effectively counts as a vote against action, so it is vital that you vote Yes and return your ballot paper.

Please check that your address and contact details are up to date and ask your local rep to add you to their broadcast list so that you are kept up with developments. But most important of all is to talk to colleagues and workmates to make sure everyone understands just how important this is and that they are using their vote.

Management are trying hard to undermine your union negotiators by pushing their message out on Yammer. They are spinning their plans to make you work harder and for longer as being about “fairness and equity”. By talking to your colleagues and sharing ASLEF updates you can help prevent this from happening.

When will ballot papers be out?

We are now going through the legally required process to hold a lawful strike ballot. The full timetable will be announced soon and we will circulate regular updates to members.

This is the most important fight we have faced in the last thirty years. The outcome will determine what your working life is like every day for the rest of your career and how much money you will have to live on when you retire. It is a fight we are determined to win.

Best regards,

Finn Brennan

ASLEF District Organiser

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