This afternoon (Friday May 7th) the London Underground Company Council, the most senior body in the machinery of negotiation, met to discuss the Trains Grade Consolidation proposal that was agreed at Trains Functional Council last week.
A huge amount of hard work has gone into negotiating this agreement. It has been obvious for a long time that the current arrangements for Night Tube drivers are neither fair nor sustainable. People have been left for months on end with no clarity on their future, working an unacceptable shift pattern that denied them the same benefits as other staff. That is not something ASLEF was prepared to allow to continue.
The company today accepted that this can not continue and accepted that in line with the proposal ASLEF agreed at Trains Council, any Night Tube driver who wants to, will go to a full time position from May 16th despite the attempt by the minority trade union to oppose this.
It is easy for any trade union to point out something we oppose and to declaim loudly what “our position is”. It is much harder to do the actual work of trying to negotiate changes. I am proud of the fact that our ASLEF Trains Council reps were prepared to do the hard graft that has resulted in every NT driver who wants to, going into a full-time job with the same guaranteed salary and benefits as other staff, while allowing those who want to stay on their current contracts to do so. They have also protected existing full-time staff who do not want to do NT shifts with a premium payment that even the minority union admits is significant means “mafia” and mutual change overs will be attractive.
Prior to implementation, Trains Council reps will be working with local reps at every depot to ensure that new rosters are as beneficial as possible and that nights are rostered in a way that suits staff in the area. That work is starting now, so that long before Night Tube comes back, we can have rosters in place that protect and improve quality time off while minimising and reducing weekend working.
Instead of working with us to make the agreement as good as possible, the minority union decided to boycott the final negotiating meeting. They chose to carp and criticise from the side-lines in the hope of avoiding responsibility for any difficult decisions rather than doing the hard work of negotiating the best deal possible.
It is a pattern we have seen time after time; from the ASLEF agreement on the Olympics that delivered large payments to drivers, to the ASLEF agreement on Boxing Day working, the minority trade union has tried to claim credit for our successes while absolutely refusing to take any responsibility for anything that might be in the slighted bit unpopular with anyone.
Of course, every trade union has a right to disagree on a proposal. But they have no right to lie about it, to mislead people and to try to create fear and division.
Over the last days and weeks, EC member Terry Wilkinson and I have attended online meetings with reps and members across the combine along with Trains Council reps. Although there have been many questions and some disagree, the overwhelming view of our reps and branches so far is that this is the right thing to do. It creates a fairer, more united grade that means we will be in a much stronger position to deal with the massive fights to come when the Government announce the full scale of the cuts they will force TfL to make. We will continue to visit branches to explain the deal and counter the misinformation that has been deliberately spread.
I do not want to engage in inter- union battles. The battle we have with management and the Government to protect our salaries, pensions and fairness at work are the only ones I am interested in fighting. They will remain my absolute focus as they should for every union rep. But they would be so much easier to win if, instead of constant destructive criticism, personal attacks and boasting about how militant they are, the other union would work jointly with us to deal with the issues we face in the responsible and professional manner that all our members deserve. I hope that they will.
ASLEF District Organiser.