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10 March 2010

London Underground signals victory

On 5 February London Underground (LU) signal maintainers took 24 hour industrial action over management's attempts to impose rosters, breaches of framework agreements and outsourcing of work. Strike action was then planned to take place on Sunday 14 February, and every Sunday from then on.

London Underground Signal Maintainer

The strategy was to stop the planned weekend engineering works that take place across the network. Stopping the train service was not high on our agenda, since we realised our strength lies in costing LU millions of pounds in cancelled work.

Management's belief in being able to force signal staff to work any shift they impose, and renege on long held agreements, helped to anger the former Metronet signal workers into fully backing their RMT union's call for industrial action.

On top of this, District line signal maintenance staff started to "work to rule" from the Monday after the first strike date on 5 February. This involved staff raising concerns and questions around the company's safety rules and procedures. No planned signal maintenance on the District line took place from that Monday night, with the "work to rule" escalating across to other lines over the next two days.

LU management resumed talks with the RMT at ACAS on 12 February, where management caved in to the union's demands.

The imposition of rosters has been lifted and a Joint Working Party (JWP) has been set up with clear terms of reference for reaching agreement on any roster change proposals. The RMT agreed to suspend any further action while the JWP meets, but hold the right to reinstate the action if management don't abide by the working party's terms of reference.

Clearly, the cost of cancelling the weekend engineering work on the first weekend of February, the lack of maintenance being done throughout the following week and disruption to future weekend engineering work that would have followed, forced management back around the negotiating table. By taking solid industrial action RMT signal maintainers have shown management that they cannot rip up long held agreements or impose unacceptable working conditions onto the workforce.

This victory will hopefully give strength to other London underground workers when facing LU management attacks.