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‘Fit for the Future?’ ‘Fit for Nothing!’

6 January 2014

London Underground’s proposals, released at the end of November, call for vast job cuts at stations right across the network with nearly a thousand staff under threat. TSSA regional organiser Wayne Geoghegan reports on our response.

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London Underground’s devastating plans were first delivered to TSSA’s general secretary by the tube’s managing director Mike Brown. He then immediately went off with his friend Boris Johnson to announce to the media the great advance of adding five hours of limited night time running twice a week. Mike Brown tells us he is no politician, yet the way he buried the bad news with the bribe of a ’24 hour tube’ would make any spin doctor proud!

The cynical attempt to divert attention from the closures and cuts by also announcing weekend all-night services no doubt distracted some Londoners from the cuts elsewhere on the system. TSSA is not opposed to ‘24 hour’ running, yet we remain deeply suspicious of whether it will be cost effective and if the loss of engineering hours will actually mean more delays for the public through the rest of the week.

The headline proposals in ‘Fit for the Future’ are:

  • All 278 Underground ticket offices to shut.
     
  • 953 proposed job losses, with 150 saved if the night tube ever gets the green light.
  • Management roles down from 228 to 97 – a 60 per cent cut.
     
  • Supervisor roles renamed and down from 1,771 to 971 – a 45 per cent cut.
     
  • Station control room assistants gone, and station assistant multi-functional (ticket office staff) gone.
     
  • The promise of a job if you are ‘flexible’ enough to be part of the brave new world, or as we put it, if you want to be part of a less safe and less productive workforce.
     
  • A pay cut of no more than £10,000 after three years if you don’t secure a job at your current salary. With such drastic proposals, many staff will fail to find jobs matching their current grade.

The company are trying to claim that technological change means that ticket offices can be entirely abolished, yet ticket vending machines have been around for a long time. London Underground has always previously offered customers a choice, with a clear source of help available to those unable to use a machine. Withdrawing this will hit the most vulnerable the hardest and will no doubt have an adverse effect on visitors to the capital who will now be expected to have no choice but to use a machine. Whilst the company are trying to suggest staff will be more accessible, finding a free-floating staff member with a tablet computer in a packed rush-hour ticket hall, then competing for their attention with other members of the crowd will prove no easy task. Doing so as an elderly or disabled passenger or even just someone of slightly below-average height may make for an extremely difficult and offputting task in peak hours. Ticket offices present a highly visible and efficient place to seek assistance. Attempts to claim that having almost a thousand fewer workers is merely a redeployment to improve the visibility of staff and not a cut is clearly just another attempt at spin.

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Unity against the cuts

It’s never been clearer that this is a major attack on all London Underground staff –not just those whose positions are threatened by this announcement. TfL are still seeking to identify billions of pounds worth of cuts across their operations and no job within the Underground can be thought to be exempt. Members must stand together like never before. We have a long and proud history of fighting to maintain jobs and build up members’ terms and conditions – now is not the time to step back from how far we have come.

Many members’ meetings have already been held, with more planned in the New Year. The anger in the rooms is very clear and yet we also need to ensure the public are on board – it’s their tube too and they want to be able to turn up at a safe and staffed station.

Plenty of members and reps have been out in force at stations across the network as part of a week of action in early December, leafleting passengers and asking them to join the campaign and lobby their MP. Sessions were held each morning, with actions at Edgware, Harrow-on-the-Hill, Clapham Common, Hammersmith and Stratford. The TSSA ‘ghost train’ visited the stations to highlight how removing almost 1,000 staff will lead to more deserted parts of the network if we do not defeat these attacks.

Join the upcoming actions

The fight continues both with the employer and politicians, together with the need to bring the public on board. A further week of action is planned for this month. All supporters –members and allies, are welcome to join the leafleting actions.

All sessions will be from 0700 – 0900 each morning at:

  • Edgware Monday 13 January
  • Harrow-on-the-Hill Tuesday 14 January
  • Morden and also Southwark Wednesday 15 January
  • Hammersmith Thursday 16 January
  • Whitechapel Friday 17 January

We need as many TSSA members and supporters out in force to defend these jobs: if it’s not your job today, it may well be tomorrow. Now is the time to stand together as one!

TSSA reps are in continuing talks with the London Underground management, but they seem intent on sharing very little information. Meanwhile, the employer’s PR machine is in the background suggesting we are not talking! Nothing could be further from the truth. Despite this, trying to go through a consultation and only being drip-fed crucial information is no way to conduct negotiations. Members are legitimately running out of patience and without a major U-turn from the top very soon we are increasingly likely to be heading into a dispute.

Let’s get out there and fight to reverse the ‘Fit for Nothing’ proposals and to ensure a safe and staffed Underground that really is ‘Fit for the Future’.

Find more at www.tssa.org.uk/underground and email your MP at www.tssa.org.uk/ticketoffices.


blt-200-w.jpgBetter London Transport Passenger Charter


TSSA is working with the Labour Party and our community allies to launch a Passenger Charter for tube users in the face of the London Mayor’s plans to close all ticket offices and cut staff. Individuals and organisations can sign up to support the charter, which states what we – the travelling public – want and expect from our tube stations. Based upon our conversations with passengers so far, we have four key demands. These are:

Turn up and travel: an assurance for disabled passengers that they can turn up at any accessible tube station and be able to use the tube. This requires suitably trained staff to be available in all locations whenever stations are open – night or day – to assist passengers as necessary.

A friendly face and a helping hand: a visible staff presence throughout all stations – including on platforms, in ticket halls and on gate lines – throughout tube opening hours, with the skills to assist passengers with any difficulties with machines/barriers etc. and to provide travel advice and information.

Safe and secure: well-maintained, safe and secure stations. Fully health and safety-trained staff on all stations to assist in case of emergency, accident or disturbance. Staff present on stations at all times – including at night – to offer passengers reassurance, and to provide assistance if necessary.

Clear communication and updates: regular announcements and clear notices providing updates on disruptions, delays and general travel information throughout the day and night. Staff available to answer queries and provide advice, particularly for visitors to London.

TSSA and the Labour Party have launched a short survey, asking passengers what they want from their tube stations. To find out more about the charter and to have your say about London’s tube stations go to www.tssa.org.uk/londoncharter.

We plan to send a clear message to Boris Johnson and to London Underground: Save our stations, Save our staff! Hands off the tube!

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