Our bosses seemed determined to test our collective boiling point. First, they forced us into a confusing and unclear “Location Preferencing” process, making us nominate a station to work at without knowing anything about its proposed roster or staffing levels. They told us we had to “be flexible”.
Then they kept us in the dark about our rosters for our months, fobbing off our reps and only revealing rosters at the last possible moment, with a rushed, two-week “consultation process” (ending around 25 March) granted for us to get to grips with them.
Their draft rosters are nightmarish, drastically reducing our weekends off, giving us “cover weeks” without rostered rest days, wrecking work-life balance, flipping us between earlies and lates with only one or two days off in between, leaving stations staffed at bare minimum levels (so if there's an incident which requires urgent attention, gatelines or control rooms could be left unstaffed), and, of course, closing our ticket offices.
And they've been revealed in the same week as LU made its insulting pay offer: a 0.5% increase for 2015-2016, and an increase pegged to the Retail Price Index for 2016-2017 (which, if living costs continue to rise, could amount to a real-term pay cut). And our thanks for having our working lives radically transformed so we can deliver a 24-hour service? A £250 lump-sum in September, and the same again a few months later if we hit target.
Back in the 19th century, when modern industrial capitalism was being born, mill owners would refer to their workers as “the hands”. That's all we were back then – a set of limbs to carry out physical tasks to make profits for our bosses. And, although generations of workers' struggles have won us vastly improved conditions and a far better material quality of life, that's still how LU sees us now. Not as human beings with lives, families, creative energies, talents, brains: just as sources of labour power, automatons to be shifted around at management's whim, bodies to put on a station, in a train, behind a desk, on a track. And make no mistake; if they could replace us with actual automatons, they would.
But how could it be otherwise? This is capitalism. Strong unions and well-fought struggles have pushed management back in the past, and clawed back a little power and dignity for workers. Now management are on the offensive. It's trench warfare; they want to push us back as far as possible. We have to resist.
It's time to show them we won't be treated as “the hands” any longer. It's time to stand up for ourselves as human beings, and demand dignity and justice.