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TfL's Fit For the Future must be scrapped or TSSA will ballot for tube strike

5 October 2016

TSSA is seeking urgent talks with tube bosses after our own survey of London Underground members reveals a passenger service system in deep crisis with public abuse towards staff at an all time high and a staggering 87% of our members now feeling less safe at work than 6 months ago.

TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes is calling on London Mayor Sadiq Khan to intervene immediately to reopen ticket offices and reverse the Fit For the Future (FFtF) work practices introduced by Boris Johnson in April this year which controversially closed down ticket offices and put staff onto concourses and platforms with tickets now issued only from machines.

TSSA launched its own 6 monthly review of FFtF at the end of last month asking all our LU Customer Service Assistant member to complete a Safety Impact Survey at the end of last month.

The survey is not due to close until Friday this week, but numbers of respondents have been extremely high and their responses evidence a widespread despair with the increasingly detrimental affects of FFtF on stress levels, fatigue and fear at work, that TSSA reps believe unless remedial action is taken immediately, a strike ballot is inevitable.

Our Safety Impact Survey reveals in the 6 months since the introduction of FFtF:

74% of our members report increases in passenger frustrations with ticket machines that either they cannot or do not understand how to use or, they have to queue to use or because machines do not administer correct change nor replace damaged Oyster Card.
a correlating spike in abuse towards our customer staff, 69% of whom now feel less safe than pre FFF with 13% now feeling a lot less safe.
more than 2,000 separate incidents of passenger abuse towards CSAs - including being spat at, bitten, physically intimidated or called abusive words - usually with a plethora of other swear words because the ticket machines break down, don't refund, give correct change etc and there is no ticket office that can perform these functions.

This has caused increased stress of work adversely impacting on staff work-life balance with some members reporting work is now exhausting, anxiety-inducing, disrupting their sleep patterns with some members reporting they are afraid of going to and being at work
- an increase in the number of CSAs switching to part time work
- an increase in understaffing of stations
- a universal loathing of the new stand-alone gate-line working practice which increases staff exposure to anger and abuse from frustrated passengers increased their sense of vulnerability with no other staff member "to have your back"
- not enough ticket machines to cope with demand in peak periods, give refunds, provide replacement Oyster cards, or give change to large bank notes
fare evasion is now more likely than pre April
- dislike of new long shift patterns with some members reporting being rostered for eight consecutive days
- lack of training and a failure to retain new staff leading causing overstretched rosters
- pressure to do overtime of which there is more than ever before
- lack of faith in management to resolve the crisis

When asked how they would improve customer service and their own work environment, all respondents wanted an increase in staffing levels, a return to dedicated ticket offices, no lone working and a return to the way it was before FFtF which includes reinstating the Special Requirement Teams of extra staff to be laid on at stations which cope with big events - sporting, musical, etc.

Responding to the survey's findings, TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes said:
"It is appalling that 87% of our members are feeling less safe at work than they did 6 months ago, It is a terrible indictment of TfL management that they have taken no action to remedy this. Our Safety Impact Survey shows a system of work clearly not fit for purpose let alone a future. There's nothing smart about ticket machine technology that cannot meet passenger needs and new rostering practices are adding to the chaos.

"Our survey has uncovered some terrible stories are indicative of a system in complete crisis. Our members mental health is suffering and the imposition of new shift lengths are adversely affecting their work-life balance across the board. One of our CSAs told us he is married to another CSA at another station and their new shift patterns mean they now no longer see each other for 4 days though they live in the same house.

"TfL foresaw the abuse problems CSAs may face because they actually issued them with a Work Anti Social Behaviour App for their work iPads. But smart technology is no help to abused members if management isn't smart enough to acknowledge that 2000 complaints of abuse - some truly terrible - indicates a systemic failure of the new working practices.

"Well enough is enough. Our survey period ends on Friday but the desperate pleas for change coming in from our members must fall on deaf ears no longer. Our members are not rats in a tube station rat-race. They are humans and deserve way better human solutions.

"I have written to Sadiq Khan asking him to intervene immediately to undo these savage cuts to the service rushed through in the dying days of Boris Johnson's regime. I hope our Labour Mayor will use his power to immediately re-open the ticket offices and begin re-establish the tube as a safe working - and travelling - space.

"But he must also initiate a new staff recruitment - and training - programme so we can restore a properly staffed customer service to the tube which will ease the huge passenger frustrations that are causing such problems for our members.

"Fit For the Future is clearly not fit for purpose and must be scrapped now. If we cannot get back to pre-April practices and restore the tube as a safe workplace I will not hesitate to trigger the ballot for strike action."

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