London Underground: Strike ballot in safety row

The rail union RMT has told London Underground (LUL) that more than 5,500 station staff and train operators are in dispute over a whole raft of safety and staffing issues. Up to 2,000 TSSA members are also in dispute over station staffing issues and they will be balloting their members.

Reg Johnson, RMT

The dispute is not over pay. The unions are fighting to protect the safety of staff and passengers as well as defending jobs and hard-won conditions of employment. The unions are sending out a message that ticket office closures, de-staffing, lone working, introduction of mobile supervisors (that is supervisors covering several stations instead of one), use of agency and security staff, and the attack on safety standards and the casualisation of safety critical work are unacceptable. A ballot to strike will take place unless all of these proposals are withdrawn.

Disputed issues include changes to emergency guidelines that threaten the ability to carry out emergency evacuations. LUL has without discussion 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 on duty at any time. This would put both staff and passengers at risk in an emergency.

Also the right of staff to refuse to work on safety grounds is being undermined. LUL are also attempting to staff the new Heathrow Terminal 5 station with sub-contracted labour. Career opportunities are also being undermined by the direct recruitment of train operators and supervisors instead of recruiting within from trained and experienced staff.

LUL are mounting a huge attack on the conditions of tube workers. They are also undermining the health and safety of both staff and the three to four million passengers who travel on the tube each day. The unions and passengers must unite in the fight to overturn these attacks.