Special Requirements Team

No cutting corners on familiarisation!

Published on: Wed, 04/03/2020 - 16:32

Station familiarisations, a legally-required procedure that everyone working on a station must undertake and which must be carried out by a resident CSS or CSM, are extremely important. CSAs on the Special Requirements Team (SRT) work across multiple stations, and are on average familiarised at 15-20 stations every six months so they can effectively respond and work at those stations.

Bank/Monument, a sprawling and entirely underground complex, has arguably the most complicated station footprint on the underground. It has numerous particular issues, specific to it as a station, not encountered elsewhere.

Two weeks ago, Customer Service Supervisors (CSSs) in the SRT had their duties suddenly changed and were instructed to go to Bank to be familiarised. They were then told that, the following day, they would be familiarising CSAs at Bank.

Reps were made aware and swiftly responded with obvious concerns. A CSS who does not work at a station should not be expected to familiarise other staff to work there. This should apply for any station, but especially one as complicated as Bank. If Bank's local CSSs and CSMs are so stretched that they are unable to familiarise staff there, the solution is to increase the staffing level at Bank, not offload familiarisation duties onto the SRT.

Clearly, the cuts made under Fit for the Future were too deep, to the point that staff do not have the resources to perform their duties. Prior to Fit for the Future, SRT staff were strictly required to have two full days of familiarisation at Bank before they could work there. Since Fit for the Future, this decline first to a single day, and now to just a few hours.

The system is failing Bank station on a safety level, and now it is affecting SRT, with this whole issue potentially spilling over to other stations if this procedure sets a precedent. To this end, it cannot be allowed to move forward and must be stopped.

But the issue does not end here. What this clearly highlights is an overall drop in recognition of the importance of familiarisations. A audit of station familiarisations should be strongly considered, with the amount of time spent on familiarisations looked at closely. All station staff have the right to a comprehensive familiarisation, not a corner-cutting walkaround after which a form is shoved in our hands which we're expected to sign. Once again, if there is not enough CSS and CSM time available to conduct full familiarisations, then quite simply we need more CSSs and CSMs.

If this issue isn't addressed, it could lead to a serious safety incident.

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Time for a fightback on stations

Published on: Wed, 07/11/2018 - 15:59

At Baker Street, workers are preparing to ballot to demand the reinstatement of CSA Mahoney, a probationer sacked after an outrageous abuse of the probation process. They are also demanding unnecessary disciplinary procedures against two workers, including the local RMT rep, be dropped.

On the Bakerloo South stations group (Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, Charing Cross, Lambeth North, and Elephant and Castle), RMT is preparing to ballot members for strikes against short staffing. The situation is now so acute that station staff report sometimes having to work on Oxford Circus's busy exit gateline on their own during peak hours.

Short staffing is a growing epidemic across the whole job. Despite the 325 reversals we won to the "Fit for the Future" job cuts, there are simply not enough staff on stations to deal with the workload. As soon as any gaps appear in coverage, the staff that remain are having to bear the brunt. And with funding cut to the bone, management insist there's no money to cover uncovered duties on overtime.

On the Special Requirements Team (SRT), staff are being used to do hourly security checks at stations such as Highbury and Islington, Canada Water, and Vauxhall, despite these being fixed, regular station duties, rather than a "special requirement", that should lead to additional jobs at the local station. This, too, is a symptom of management's penny-pinching; they want to (mis)use the SRT resource rather than create the additional jobs.

Our January 2017 strike on stations was magnificent, and proved to management that station staff have the power to stop the jobs. The concessions we won as a consequence were important. But since then, management have had nearly two years of industrial peace. Now's the time to say: enough.

All of these issues are at various different stages, in terms of being progressed through the formal negotiating structures within the company. Some, like Baker Street and Bakerloo South, are on the verge of balloting for actions. Others are still being discussed. But together, they are the first flickers of a potential fightback on stations; these sparks should be fanned into flames.


Submitted by Sympathetic Commuter (not verified) on Thu, 08/11/2018 - 19:16

What's Tfl 'due to an absence of station staff' in real terms, please? I've thought it's staff not wishing to work on rest days and management failing to cope or understand that not everybody can do overtime, if my assumption is true.

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Left out in the cold

Published on: Fri, 16/02/2018 - 13:58

SRT staff drafted into work at Brixton while the lift is replaced will find one of their rotations is to stand outside the station, by the blue hoarding, a SIBand the CHP and answer any questions people have about station access.

With almost no-one asking anything why are staff being made to stand outside in the cold and rain with nothing to do while customers just go straight into the station if they have any questions. Having the extra staff while the lift isn't working is beneficial but those staff could be on the gateline or by the POMs and not out in the freezing cold being ignored.

Tubeworker topics

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Oblique Images, Obtuse Management Response

Published on: Wed, 25/11/2015 - 17:56

On crowded platforms, it can be hard for the train driver to see the "Platform Train Interface", particularly on a curved platform. This is what LUL calls an "oblique image" - where people on the platform block the driver's view of the PTI. We'd call it a blind spot.

There are dozens of these all over the Tube, posing a serious safety risk to passengers. Some of the worst locations have been given additional station staff support from the Special Requirements Team so CSAs on the platform can assist drivers. But this isn't a "special" requirement - it's a permanent one!

Both Aslef and RMT have been pushing for a resolution from management, and none was forthcoming. In a rare outbreak of unity, both unions put out a communiqué advising drivers to insist on assisted despatch from CSAs at platforms with blind spots.

The long-term solution is more staff on platforms and improved camera coverage.

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S Stock: Station Staff Stand In For Technical Shortcomings (Again)

Published on: Mon, 26/01/2015 - 13:50

You'd think that the idea of bringing in new train stock would be to help the service run more smoothly. And you'd think that at the design stage, there would be some kind of of measuring or modelling exercise to check that the new stock will, erm, fit the existing infrastructure properly.

It was something of an oversight, then, to only find out after the event that on several stations, drivers of the new S Stock trains can't see the PTI properly when there are more than a few passengers on the platform (damn those passengers, blocking our view of the trains!); and that there are some gaps between the train and the platform that are so gaping they can't be left unattended. So at a dozen-and-a-half stations, extra station staff have had to be placed on the platform to tell the driver when it is safe to depart to keep an eye on the gaps. Some stations need three staff on the platform for most of the traffic day!

The work is currently being carried out by SRT and on overtime, while we await an elusive 'technical fix'. Here at Tubeworker, we are all in favour of creating jobs - it is deeply ironic that while LUL is trying to cut 900 or so station jobs, it is having to create more duties for its existing staff to do.

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Carnival spirit?

Published on: Sat, 23/08/2014 - 00:06

Notting Hill Carnival weekend is upon us, and LU workers are looking forward to helping make one London's most important cultural institutions a success.

Big events like Carnival place extra demands on the Tube, and naturally that means hard work for us staff, especially SRT staff who'll be drafted into west London stations en masse to cope with the extra footfall.

Management hardly go out of their way to make us feel valued, though. As it's nearly impossible to get to any shops due to the Carnival crowds, staff are being provided with packed lunches - but if last year's are anything to go by, they'll be less than appetising. That's a small thing in the great scheme of things, and of course, LU isn't a catering company and doesn't specialise in food. But being given a soggy sandwich and an apple to keep you going through an incredibly tough shift when you can't buy any food for yourself doesn't make you feel especially appreciated.

Staff have also been reminded that anyone unable to work Carnival shifts for domestic or personal reasons will need to "provide evidence". No-one expects free rein to take the piss, but stern warnings about "evidence" could intimidate people with genuine issues that might prevent them from working into coming in out of fear that their "evidence" wouldn't come up to the company's standards, leading to greater stress and, in all probability, a worse performance on the job.

And after Carnival's over? We can undoubtedly expect another heartfelt message of thanks from some TfL bigwigs (like Peter Hendy's message after the Tour de France), while LU push merrily on with their job cuts. If management get their way, events like Carnival will suffer massively. With hundreds fewer staff, we'll be far worse equipped to meet the requirements of special events.

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Return of the Flash and Dash?

Published on: Mon, 28/10/2013 - 11:37

After months of having top-class wonks working on it, LUL management seem to have come to the conclusion that it's fine to not check that trains are empty before going into depots or sidings so long as you (a) make a few more announcements, and (b) add a bit at the top of the inter-car barriers.

Yes, they want to bring back the 'flash and dash', the ridiculous procedure on the Bakerloo line that saw thousands overcarried last year, and which RMT and ASLEF's join industrial action comprehensively trounced earlier this year.

So, we need to be ready to take the same action against as soon as we need to. Fortunately, RMT only suspended its action earlier in the year and remained in dispute, so it can put it back on again as soon as necessary. ASLEF, though, rather carelessly settled the dispute, so may need to ballot again. Whatever hoops we need to jump through, let's get the action back on.

And let's see more effort to mobilise station staff into this fight - it's station staff jobs at stake, after all.

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Up For The Cup!

Published on: Mon, 06/09/2010 - 19:08

Last month, London Underground had some very important visitors, as FIFA officials travelled around the Jubilee line inspecting the facilities as they assessed London’s bid for the 2018 World Cup.

Funnily enough, though, normal levels of station staffing were not adequate for our visitors, as SRT were deployed on stations along the line in addition to regular staff. Evidently, management are not too keen to show the world just how low station staffing levels have fallen, and would prefer the bid assessors to think that we have rather more staff than we actually do!

Don’t they know that bringing on extra players is against the rules?!

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SRT and Supervisors Unite!

Published on: Fri, 26/03/2010 - 12:11

Three staff from the Special Requirements Team smelt a rat when they were rushed at short notice to Green Park Station and arrived to find hardly any rostered staff present.

The Supervisors were unhappy that SRT had been sent blatantly to cover duties. The SRT rang their manager who gave them the go-ahead to refuse to cover the duties, in line with the Framework Agreement for Station Staff.

Coincidentally, some strategy manager happened to appear on the station at that moment, who came down hard on them to stay. But the SRT knew their ground and the supervisors backed them up and the SRT walked away. More examples like this, of SRT and Supervisors backing each other up, would cripple LU’s constant drive to understaff.

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Bank Robbery

Published on: Sat, 02/01/2010 - 11:18

Bank station has recenty finished phase 1 of its upgrade project. Phase 2 is soon to follow, starting in February or March, with further phases after that.

The station has had additional CSAs to ensure that the extra work generated by the project can be carried out. So you might think that those CSAs should stay on the station for phase 2. But management have a different idea - boot them out and let the SRT do the work instead. It is surely better to keep staff who have worked atthe station (which is, after all, the largest underground railway station in Europe) for up to two years, and are familiar with the station and its procedures, than to expect SRT staff to be thrown in at the deep end to do the job. Management's plan is unfair both on the existing CSAs and the SRT - and on Bank's staff and passengers in general.

Which is why the unions are objecting and why over 100 Bank group staff have signed a petition opposing management's daft idea.

Let's hope that makes management sit up and listen.

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