Transplant is a department within London Underground, formerly part of TubeLines. Some may know Transplant as the “Ballast Trains”, or maybe the “Engineers Train Unit” (ETU). Due to the nature of work, predominantly carried out under the cover of darkness, some would believe that its just a small setup. The reality is very different. Transplant is a huge scale operation, compromising 270+ vehicles, such as a fleet of battery locomotives; plain line/points and crossing tamping machines; rail cranes; various plant equipment; and a massive fleet of wagons that cater to LUL's engineering requirements.
Transplant workers have been responsible for providing all this equipment across the LUL infrastructure every night to carry out essential maintenance work, and during weekend possessions to support major improvement works across the Tube network. Again, due to the nature of the heavy engineering work and the fact that a lot of the fleet is over 50 years old, the trains themselves require a lot of maintenance. This completed by a small but dedicated team of Train Maintainers whose skills, knowledge, and experience of multiple stocks and lots of different equipment have enabled Transplant to operate for many years.
Workers on Transplant maintenance teams feel they have played, and continue to play, a vital and pivotal role in the success and safe operation of this department and that they should receive recognition for this.
A dispute situation was announced back in 2017 over the issues of pay parity and train preparation payments. RMT began talks with the company before Christmas and felt that good progress had been made and the company had recognised our aspirations of achieving pay parity with the Engineers Train Operators. Because of these assurances the dedicated members of Transplant maintenance felt that this was a reasonable way forward and ensured their support over the Christmas period to the major engineering works. After Christmas a few discussions were held but no agreement reached, action-short-of-strikes was announced and commenced… still no talks. Members of staff felt ignored and like they had been played by management. They had stuck to their side of the bargain: their gesture of goodwill and commitment to support Christmas engineering work based on serious negotiations in the new year.
During the course of this dispute we have found management to actually be some of our best recruiters. Their actions have enraged staff, caused tensions to escalate to boiling point, and have left industrial relations in a state of disrepair.
The new anti-trade union laws passed in 2016 meant we had to re-ballot. A massive majority vote was secured demonstrated a continued determination to fight on. Transplant maintenance workers struck for 24 hours from 12 July. Due to possession works being scaled back, the decision was taken to suspended further strikes planned for 13 and 15 July.
More strikes are now scheduled to take place from 19:00 on Friday 3 August. With planned engineering works slowing from down from September we wonder if management are trying to kick the can down the road. Transplant maintenance workers have been providing an outstanding service, however they having been working at 100% capacity with staff shortages, lack of resources, and lack of investment. The maintenance teams are now required more then ever and with a down turn in engineering work out on the network comes a major up turn in in work for maintenance and workshop staff.
There are recent noticeable changes in the management structure. We hope to resolve this dispute and ensure workplace justice for Transplant maintenance workers for many years to come.