Tube safety talks stall again

ATTEMPTS TO kick-start talks with London Underground over a raft of safety and staffing issues have foundered again over the company’s insistence on retaining the use of agency and security staff and mobile supervisors.

Talks initially broke down a week ago when TSSA and RMT negotiators representing more than 7,500 station staff and drivers were told that LUL intended to renege on its pledge to ensure that all station staff are directly employed and fully trained to LUL safety standards.

LUL today not only refused to budge from that position, but also signalled that they would not automatically be offering jobs at the new service control centres to existing skilled LUL signalling operators, turning existing agreements on their head.

“Once more we are being told that agency and security staff are part of a new employment model and that the crazy concept of mobile station supervisors is here to stay, but now we are also being told that the career path for trained Tube staff is being blocked,” RMT general secretary Bob Crow said.

“LUL have effectively unmade all the progress that was made at earlier talks, and have confirmed our fears that they are intent on tearing up the existing safety rule book,” Bob Crow said.

“LUL asked us to get back around the table but today we have been offered absolutely nothing new, and LUL has merely confirmed that it intends to press ahead with its plans to casualise key safety-critical work and undermine safety standards,” said TSSA senior regional organiser John Page.

“At Terminal 5 we are being told that it is OK to have agency staff working for a subcontractor to a subcontractor undertaking safety-critical duties like train despatch, and that is no more acceptable to us this week than it was last week,” John Page said.

Notes to editors: Members ofTSSA have voted by a margin of four to one for industrial action, RM’s ballot will close on March 27.

Ticket office closures and cuts to opening times: LUL temporarily halted plans to close 40 ticket offices and to cut the opening times of many more after the unions’ campaign campaign last year led to a public outcry. However, LUL has refused to say that the plans have been withdrawn completely.

RMT and TSSA are demanding the complete withdrawal of the plans

Staffing levels – emergency plans and guidelines:LUL has unilaterally decided to vary Section 4.2 of the Congestion Control and Emergency Plan to remove the specification of the minimum numbers of each grade of station staff that are to be on duty at any time.

RMT and TSSA are demanding the reinstatement of the original numbers of each grade of fully trained and fully familiarised station staff.

Refusal to work on grounds of safety:Under the guise of simplification LUL has changed its policy, undermining safety and breaching legislation.

RMT and TSSA are demanding the immediate re-instatement of the original policy.

Mobile supervisors:LUL wants to introduce ‘mobile supervisors’ responsible for several stations, and to continue to staff stations recently taken over from Silverlink only during the limited hours decided by the previous franchise holder. But what happens in an emergency when the mobile supervisor is in the wrong place – or even stuck between stations on a train?

RMT and TSSA are demanding that every station is fully staffed during traffic hours by the appropriate number of customer-service and station assistants, supervised by station supervisors in line with agreements and safety requirements.

Terminal 5 staffing: LUL wants to staff the new station with staff subcontracted from other firms but wearing LUL uniforms.

RMT and TSSA believe that this has serious safety implications and has demanded that the station is staffed by people trained and employed directly by LUL.

Use of agency staff: LUL wants to continue using agency staff on former Silverlink stations, including those used for ticketing and revenue duties

RMT and TSSA are demanding that the practice ends when the training of former Silverlink staff is completed and current contracts ends, and a guarantee that only directly employed LUL staff are used for stations and ticketing operations

Use of security staff: RMT and TSSA are demanding an agreement that security at all LUL-owned or -managed stations must be provided at all times by directly employed staff in appropriate grades, supplemented by the normal co-operation with the BTP and Metropolitan police forces.

Lone working: RMT and TSSA are demanding an agreement that there must be no rostered lone working unless undertaken from a place of safety.

Direct recruitment of station supervisors, train operators and service-control staff: LUL is now systematically denying career opportunities to experienced railway staff and recruiting externally, turning on its head an agreement that external advertising can take place if there are insufficient internal applications.

RMT and TSSA are demanding a complete review of recruitment policy to establish a policy that preserves and encourages a career path for experienced railway staff.

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