Saturday, March 29, 2008

To strike or not to strike?

Ok... the pressure is building.

A joint strike is planned on the London Underground from 1830 BST on 6 April to 9 April by the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union and Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA).

At this stage in the proceedings I suspect that there is more than a 50% probability that the industrial action will not happen. This is based on observation of many many disputes involving London Underground over the last two decades.

It has proven incredibly difficult to find any quality information about the dispute, so that I could present an informed view. Anyhow, here is what I have found:
  • It seems to be about safety issues. Here are the blunt facts as presented by the RMT. It seems that 1,673 RMT union members voted for the action. This seems like a really low number of people across the whole of London Underground. This implies that either many people really couldn't be bothered to vote, or that this dispute doesn't involve all types of staff working on the underground.
  • The TSSA have 3,000 members working on the underground. They had an 81.2% vote in favour of industrial action, but their media release does not say how many members actually voted.
  • London Underground have responded to the strike announcement by saying "There is simply no reason for a strike, or even the threat of one, as all of the issues being raised can be resolved".
My personal views are:
  1. Every station on the London Underground ought to have a physical ticket office that is open between, say, 6 am & 9 am and between 3 pm and 7pm every working weekday. The hours can be worked on, the concept is not negotiable. Bricking up a ticket office, such as happened at Regents Park during last year's refurbishment is a big no-no.
  2. Health & Safety legislation in the country is very strong. If LUL decide they want to vary an aspect (S 4.2) of THEIR Congestion Control and Emergency Plan, then that is down to them. If the unions believe that a proposal is unsafe, they should challenge the matter through the courts, using injunctions if necessary. I suspect this is about job protection, not safety.
  3. I agree with the unions that only directly employed LUL staff should be used for stations and ticketing operations, however I disagree with them about security staff being directly employed by London Underground.
Please note: I dislike Ken Livingstone, I am against the monolithic nature of 'Transport for London' and I have seen evidence that London Underground has bullied those with whom it deals.

Please also note: I view Bob Crow as a dinosaur and the way that the RMT behaves as belonging to another era.

We should not have to deal with incessant strikes or threats thereof. I really don't know what can be done about it, but I am fed up to the back teeth with a small number of people being able to hold London to ransom.

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