Waterloo & City line

Reduced service imposed: fight for workers' control

Published on: Wed, 18/03/2020 - 20:36

LU has announced a number of measures as part of its response to the Covid-19 crisis, including suspending Night Tube and the Waterloo and City line, and "temporarily closing stations" (although it hasn't yet said which).

Emergency measures are necessary; suspending Night Tube was one of the demands in our proposed "Emergency Plan", and was formally submitted to LU by the RMT. LU may now ask NT workers to work outside of their contracted hours to supply staffing shortages through the week; Tubeworker reminds our NT worker readers that such measures will be strictly voluntary. LU cannot make you work outside of your contract.

We also need to demand workers' control over operational decision making. Frontline staff should make the calls about which stations to keep open and which to close - not managers who are probably all working from home by now anyway.

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Central shutdown

Published on: Wed, 07/11/2018 - 15:44

Strikes by RMT and Aslef drivers on the Central Line (the Leytonstone depot of which also provides drivers for the Waterloo and City Line) have completely shut the line today, in an impressive display of workers' strength.

The strikes are part of overlapping and parallel disputes. RMT has two disputes, one demanding the reinstatement of Paul Bailey, and another against authoritarian management culture. Aslef's disputes relate to the latter issue, and the unfair sacking of one of their members after a procedural error.

Management spin alleges that Paul Bailey "failed a drugs test". In fact, he registered on a drugs test after taking hemp supplements, but was within the "cut-off" limit for the substance. In essence he was sacked for passing a drugs test. This calls into question the integrity of LU's entire drugs and alcohol testing regime and it's absolutely right that Paul's colleagues are striking to demand his reinstatement.

The issues around management culture closely mirror those over which drivers on the Piccadilly Line recently struck: a culture of petty discipline, hauling drivers in for unnecessary attendance reviews and case conferences, and a heavy-handed attitude to drivers from Service Control. This strike demands dignity at work, and the right not to be pushed around by bullying bosses.

The total shutdown of the lines is a testament to drivers' resolve. But while one day of action may be enough to push management into further talks, it may not be sufficient to secure concessions. If the situation doesn't improve, unions need to give serious consideration to coordinated and sustained strikes.

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Central Line and Picc Line drivers: all out on 7 November!

Published on: Wed, 17/10/2018 - 13:10

RMT and Aslef drivers on the Central Line, and RMT drivers on the Piccadilly Line, will strike on 7 November. Here’s the lowdown on the Central Line strike...

RMT drivers have three ongoing disputes on the Central Line - we’re resisting the removal of detrainment staff on the Waterloo and City Line, where drivers operate out of Leytonstone depot; we’re demanding reinstatement for Paul Bailey, a driver we believe was unjustly sacked; and we’re fighting against an out-of-control management culture.

Management have backed off for now on their plans to remove Waterloo and City Line detrainment staff. They were planning to impose “flash-and-dash”, whereby, rather than the train being physically checked by a station assistant, the driver would simply be expected to flash the cab lights on and off and hope that would be enough to remind any passengers to get off, then take the train into the sidings.

In the Paul Bailey case, there is a lot of propaganda being circulated by the Central Line Operations Manager. Paul was sacked after “failing” a drugs test, for the presence of cannabinoid substances, but a second test on a sample taken at the same time showed he was well within the cut-off limit of 50-ng/mL.

Management are now moving the goalposts and saying the limit is 15-ng/mL, even though all the documentation says 50. They won’t release the results of Paul’s initial test, they’re just saying “he failed”. When pressed on why they won’t release the results, managers say, “we don’t have to”. So there’s obviously something dodgy going on in terms of openness and transparency.

The third dispute is over what the union calls a “breakdown of industrial relations”. There are a raft of issues involved here, which affect drivers at all Central Line depots. They’re similar to the issues in the Piccadilly Line dispute. Drivers feel like we’re being pushed around by management. They knowingly run trains late then effectively force drivers to work past their shift finishing times. There’s also a big issue with the authoritarian way the attendance policy is being applied; drivers who are at work with no issues are being hauled in for medical case conferences and told they’re at risk of losing their jobs!

In the Waterloo and City Line and Paul Bailey disputes, there are clear demands: retain detrainment staff, and reinstate Paul. In the other dispute, we’re fighting for a wholesale change in management culture.

We’ll strike on 7 November, alongside Aslef, who have a parallel dispute on the Central Line over similar issues. Aslef also have a live ballot mandate over cab security, but it’s not clear what their strategy is for that.

The issues with Central Line management have been ongoing for years, resurfacing over and over again. It feels like we have to strike to keep the bosses in check.

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Stand firm to knock back "flash and dash"

Published on: Fri, 21/09/2018 - 16:41

The stage is set for a solid dispute to defend detrainment staff on the Waterloo & City Line.

With RMT’s action mandate now live, Aslef naming a strike on the Central Line (Waterloo & City drivers are supplied by Leytonstone depot) on 5 October, and RMT planning to ballot station staff at Waterloo as part of the same dispute, the pressure is mounting on management to back off from their plans to force drivers to take their trains into sidings without them having been physically checked.

The introduction of this process, known as “flash and dash”, was pushed back on the Bakerloo Line a few years ago by solid action. We can do the same on the Waterloo & City.

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Hands off detrainment staff: vote yes for strikes!

Published on: Sat, 28/07/2018 - 20:28

RMT drivers at Leytonstone depot are balloting for strikes to oppose the removal of Waterloo and City Line detrainment staff (Waterloo and City Line drivers come from Central Line depots).

Union action has seen off threats to detrainment staff before: we can do it again. The ballot closes on 14 August, vote yes for strikes!

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Fully Automated Trains

Published on: Thu, 21/01/2016 - 11:54

On 18th January, LUL sent out an ‘invitation to tender’ to a shortlist of suppliers for new trains for the Central, Piccadilly, Waterloo and City and Bakerloo Lines, due to come into service in the early 2020s.

It says, ‘ When the New Tube for London enters service, it will have an operator (driver) on board’. However, it adds, ‘Given that the New Tube will serve London for around 50 years, it will be capable of full automation’. Meaning: remote operation, to be driven without a driver. It goes on to say, ‘It is likely that the trains will have the versatility of a reconfigurable cab’. Meaning: LUL might decide to remove the cab and use ‘train captains’ as on the DLR.

LUL lists the benefits that these new trains will bring to London: ‘modern’, ‘reliable’, ‘air-cooled’. Greater automation will mean trains can run closer together and Tube capacity can increase. Tubeworker is not opposed to the commissioning of new trains. We agree that new technology should be used for the public’s benefit.

But none of LUL’s reasoning explains specifically why driverless trains will bring benefit to London. LUL explains that it does not currently operate fully-automated trains because it ‘would have to upgrade the signalling to an even more sophisticated level and introduce new features to enable remote operation in all situations and automatic opening and closing of doors’. If so much investment would be needed to deliver full automation, and if LUL is unable to tell us specifically what benefit this would bring to Londoners, you have to wonder whether it would be money well spent.

Yes, invest in new trains. We are not opposed to new technology. We are concerned, though, that new technology in the hands of capitalists and employers can be used not for public benefit but to achieve anti-worker and anti-union political objectives.

Three years ago, RMT passed a policy that it would not wait until driverless trains arrived before fighting their introduction, but would act against processes such as the invitation to tender was sent out. Well here it is. The attack on drivers’ jobs may appear to be far in the future, but LUL has a long term plan. Our unions should be building a long-term fightback. In the first instance, this needs to centre on building unity between drivers and station staff on LUL, and guards on many parts of  the national rail network, whose job roles are under imminent threat of extinction.

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Waterloo & City Line strikers speak out

Published on: Mon, 12/10/2015 - 20:17

Service controllers on the Waterloo and City Line on London Underground (LU) have been fighting for regrading to reflect the responsible nature of their work. They struck from 28-30 September. One of the activists spoke to Tubeworker.

The dispute goes back to 2006/7, when the signalling for the line was moved to a new control centre. That meant we had more responsibilities, and were working with new equipment. Previously we'd been signallers, now we were doing controllers' work – but LU didn't upgrade us. We were told we'd be moved up to “Controller 1”, the lowest grade of controller. But in 2008, the company reneged, saying that the financial crisis meant they couldn't afford it!

The dispute has been ongoing ever since. Over the years there's been a steady stream of new procedures and technologies being introduced. We're doing work equivalent to the highest grade of controller, but we're still in a separate grade.

An offer was made to us last year to upgrade us if we worked additional Sundays. But at the last minute, the company informed us they'd pay for it by cutting jobs in another grade at our depot. We didn't want our promotion to come at the price of jobs elsewhere, so we refused.

We struck from 28-30 September, the first time we've taken action in the dispute. The strike was solid, but management kept the service running by drafting in hordes of managers to cover the work. It was really overkill. However, controllers from another depot who were asked to come in to cover the work refused to do so, which was positive.

We were directly attacked on the front page of the Evening Standard, in an article that bemoaned the fact that small numbers had voted in our strike ballot. We felt the attack was very personal, and that we were being picked on for working in a small workplace.

The managers who covered the work on our strike day were qualified on paper, but not used to working in our environment. If we take action again, we'd encourage other grades of staff, particularly drivers, to call up and make sure that whoever's running the line is properly trained and competent.

We're looking to take more action towards the end of the year, and are exploring different forms of industrial action.

What's happening to us is part of a wider picture. London Underground is cutting staff in a variety of areas, and our experiences – of essentially being promoted to more responsible roles, involving more work, without that being reflected in our pay – mirror what's currently happening to station staff. They've picked on us particularly because we're a small unit, but if we can win our fight for justice it might inspire other grades in other areas.

The mood in the workplace is extremely angry. To make sure that anger fuels a resolve to continue fighting, we need continued communication from the union, and regular updates from talks and negotiations so we can decide the best way forward for our dispute.

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W&C Service Controllers Strike Back

Published on: Mon, 21/09/2015 - 13:40

Waterloo and City line service controllers will strike for 48 hours next week in their fight to have their job uprated.

W&C controllers are paid less than every other service controller on the job - they have a grade all to themselves so that the company can pay them five grand less than others. They are even paid less than some signal operators.

This is despite the fact that their job includes signal operations, line control and line information, and despite new equipment being installed in their control room.

LUL offered to uprate them last year, but when they found out that this would be at the cost of jobs in other grades in the depot, they refused to accept.

These services controllers have shown solidarity with other grades, so let's all show solidarity with them.

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Wot No Security Checks?

Published on: Tue, 10/03/2015 - 18:32

Central and Waterloo & City line staff were no doubt delighted to receive a bulletin from our management stressing the importance of our role in security checks.

We wholeheartedly agree. The hours that station staff spend every day checking areas and doors are secure, registering each check with a "wand", is essential to the security of millions of people travelling on the Underground. It - quite literally - saves lives. It's nice to see management acknowledge this.

Strange, then, that management see no need to include security checks in the draft Business Needs Schematics they have just released. The BNS is supposed to identify the work tasks that need carrying out on a station. So if security checks are not there, then we can only assume that someone on a platform or in a ticket hall is supposed to split themselves into two separate beings, with one half going off to do the checks while the other half carries out the task that actually is mentioned.

Of course, the reason that management have not included security checks (among other things) is that the purpose of their BNS is to give spurious justification to destaffing stations and cutting jobs. Our unions must insist to management that security checks are added to the BNS, which would then require more jobs on the rosters. That's one of many demands we are making to ensure that jobs are not cut.

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Strike Threat Forces Management to Talk Pay Rise

Published on: Mon, 22/12/2014 - 19:08

For nearly two years, Waterloo & City line service control staff have been refusing overtime in pursuit of their entirely justified claim for higher pay to reflect the complexity of their work. Nothing doing. Management didn't care.

So they stepped it up. Balloted for strike action. Got a 100% Yes vote. Put on a 48-hour strike.

And guess what? Management came running to ACAS and have now agreed a review which should lead to a pay enhancement.

The lesson is obvious: if we want to win, we must show willing to take action.

But there is a but ... If we take our eye off the ball now, the "review" could end up being a damp squib, or even a Trojan horse for attacks on pay and conditions. It is essential that the momentum is maintained and that management understand that unless the review delivers what we want, that strike action will be back on.

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