Last Thursday ASLEF and the other trade unions met management to formally present our pay claims for 2023.
We want an inflation linked pay rise that protects our members living standards and, in line with our national policy, a reduction in working hours toward a 4-day, 32-hour week. Our claim also covers increasing the overtime rate, improved promotional opportunities, extending the cycle to work scheme to cover electric vehicles and outstanding issues on travel facilities.
Management’s initial response was a presentation on TfL finances. Although there has been a big improvement in passenger numbers, they say there is still a shortfall in their budget. TfL still relies on government funding for operational costs this year and will continue to do so for investment in new rolling stock and major projects in the coming years.
We are under no illusions. These will be difficult negotiations. Management have already told us that they must follow government guidance on public sector pay. Our colleagues on the national rail Train Operating Companies have been offered just 4% despite having gone without a pay rise for four years and are engaged in a long hard fight to protect their working conditions. An offer of 5% on the Elizabeth line has been rejected by our negotiating team there.
The unions will meet management again this week and we will report to members on any progress made.
Also last week, your Trains Council reps were presented with a “trains modernisation proposal" which management say is “a key part of the drive for financial sustainability”. We have always prepared to negotiate on change, but it is clear that this proposal could never be acceptable.
Under the guise of a restructured working week, management have proposed increasing the maximum shift length to 10 hours, increasing the maximum time on duty without a break to 6 hours, abolishing fixed links, unrestricted remote booking on and off, and adding flexible cover turns into every roster. These changes would make the job intolerable. While you might be spending fewer days at work, the actual number of hours at work, once traveling to remotely book on and off are included would increase, while the increased flexibility they are demanding would make it impossible to plan your life outside work.
Your ASLEF Trains Council reps have rightly rejected this proposal out of hand. Management now need to go back to the drawing board and return with a sensible proposal that actually enhances work life balance for train operators if they want negotiations to progress.
We have a live mandate for industrial action that we will use again, as we did in March if there is any attempt to impose changes without agreement.
The coming weeks will show if management are prepared to make acceptable offers on pay and working conditions. They also want changes to the disciplinary and attendance at work procedures.
All of these issues are coming together in one of the biggest challenges we have ever faced. I know our negotiating teams at every level will do an excellent job defending the interests of our members. But to be effective, we will have to be prepared to take action when needed.
We will be arranging more open meetings to keep everyone updated on developments but if you can, please try to attend your local ASLEF branch meetings. Senior reps will be in attendance to report, but just as importantly to listen to the views and concerns of members.
There is a tough battle ahead. But with your support, ASLEF are determined to get a fair deal our members on London Underground.
ASLEF District Organiser.