More trouble Underground (and overground)
WHILE I'm still talking to people about the plans to close ticket offices on many London tube stations, comes news of more trouble up ahead. I had difficulty getting through the crowd at one station on a wet Sunday some months back because West Brom was playing at Wembley and supporters were sensibly parking their cars and coaches on the outskirts of London and queueing at the ticket office to continue their journey by tube.
They won't be able to do that again if London Underground Limited(LUL) proceeds with its plans to close that stations ticket office with others in the area. The official argument is that the offices are unnecessary because tube users can get Oyster season or weekly tickets. Tell that to the out of town travellers coming in on special occasions, sightseeing or shopping trips. And don't forget we're supposed to be easing congestion on the roads in London.
That station, like the biggest part of the Underground is overground. But yesterday the London TV news was making a fuss about how strange it was that Transport for London, having taken over the running of the busy North London line, had added it to tube maps. This used to be part of British Rail, and was run until now by Silverlink. Running from Richmond in the west it arcs across outer north London to Stratford in the east, cutting across the radial routes from the centre, and providing a useful connection between the areas that makes it a valued part of London's travel network. But users had been complaining of poor services. (It is incidentally one of the few parts of London's passenger transport network that shares parts of its routes with goods trains, which can be a cause of delays and problems).
What the TV news missed, with its chatty stuff about tube maps, and confused travellers, and photo opportunity for Mayor Livingstone, is the real worrying story brought out by tube workers and the RMT union.
"Management want to make huge job cuts next year. Meanwhile they plan to employ semi-trained agency staff on the ex-Silverlink stations - wearing LUL uniforms!
They are also planning to have Station Supervisors covering more than one station and to recruit train drivers off the street.
The attitude is that anyone can do an LUL operating job and they want to undermine existing safety and working arrangements".
So if those confused people found by TV interviewers have trouble reading a tube map they should have real fun asking an untrained agency staff person for help - that is if they can find one.
Already resisting privatisation, RMT members, say
- Break Safety Standards by having under trained staff and supervisors not available.
- Break agreements with the unions .
- Trample over years of experience of railway operations and basic common sense.
A PLAN TO CASUALISE THE LUL WORKFORCE
LUL’s ideas to have temp staff, agency staff, and ‘off the street’ train drivers add up to a plan to undermine job security. The same senior managers who lecture workers about customer care want to bring in a casual workforce with lower safety standards. Not long ago they tried to persuade the Government to get rid of Section 12 rules. It is no secret among LUL staff that some senior managers don’t understand what they are doing and others have become demoralised and just given up trying to do what is right.
LUL Management must think their proposed ‘Mobile Supervisors’ would be able to disapparate and magically re-appear at a different station, or maybe they will just fly from one site to another!
This crazy idea would be a serious lowering of safety standards.
When Management got rid of the guards they promised high levels of station staff would be available to deal with incidents. It is ABC to have a trained LUL Station Supervisor for many possible situations - a ‘one under’, fire, passenger incident, breakdown, serious accident, station overruns. There are endless cases where nothing less than a trained and experienced Station Supervisor will do.
Meanwhile LUL intend to close 40 ticket offices and slash the hours of the other ticket offices, just as soon as the Greater London elections are over. ( So much for democracy!)
If we accept these proposals, stations could easily end up with no visible staff and attract to gangs of youths and vandals. Already we have had violence and threats in many stations on LUL and stations like Willesden, where LUL is trying to operate with reduced staff.
It also means CSAs won’t be able to get a ticket office job or a train operator job. Train operators will be told they are dispensable as their jobs can be advertised to anyone with no LUL background.
At talks with the unions, LUL are insisting on ‘mobile supervisors’ for the Silverlink stations that come to LUL. Once this is in place, they would no doubt apply this concept across LUL.
They also want to employ security guards at the ex-Silverlink stations, saying this is while other staff are recruited – for up to 6 months or a year. But the advertisements for security guards are for permanent jobs!
Meanwhile Management want to employ temporary agency staff (with a couple of days training) wearing LUL uniforms. Other Underground staff such and members of the public wouldn’t know the difference!
LUL have also unrolled plans for temporary agency staff to help out at special events, like the Notting Hill Carnival. Or maybe even strikes?
All in all this amounts to a plan to casualise operating staff.
LUL want to recruit train operators off the street, making the ridiculous claim that existing station staff and others are not good enough, i.e. there are not enough good applicants. This would undermine the drivers’ job and pull away the promotion ladder for low paid station staff.
THE RMT MEMBERS ARE TALKING ABOUT TAKING INDUSTRIAL ACTION OVER THIS ISSUE. WHEN THEY DO, MAYBE THE TV NEWS WILL TELL LONDONERS WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT, INSTEAD OF JUST INTERVIEWING "ANGRY COMMUTERS" LIKE THEY USUALLY DO? PERHAPS WITH BBC STAFF UNHAPPY OVER THE MOVE TO SALFORD, CUTS AND COMMERCIALISATION, THEY MIGHT EVEN UNDERSTAND HOW OTHER PUBLIC SERVICE WORKERS FEEL? Well, I only arsked.