Health & safety

“Twenty additional colleagues”?

Published on: Wed, 09/10/2019 - 08:50

Ollie Moore

London Underground’s response to the successful ballot for action on the East End of the District Line over workplace violence has been to announce “20 additional colleagues”.

Good news, you might think. An acknowledgement that lone working and understaffing are the fundamental problems. But alas, the reality is not so encouraging.

These “colleagues” aren’t additional tube staff, but staff drafted in from Transport for London’s (TfL) Surface Transport department – workers who deal with taxi enforcement and revenue issues on buses. They are not trained or licensed to work on tube stations. They


Northern guards: put the action back on!

Published on: Wed, 02/10/2019 - 22:39

Word has it that Northern Rail management have come up with a spiffing new idea for undermining the role of guard, and seem to think that we may be daft enough not to see through it.

It goes like this. The train pulls in to the station. The driver opens the doors. The guards steps onto the platform. When the PTI is clear, the guard presses the buzzer to tell the driver that it is safe to close the doors. The driver closes the doors.

Of course, there is the small matter that the buzzer is not live while the doors are open. But in case they get a technical fix for that, the bigger question is: If the guard can press a buzzer to communicate with the driver, then why can't the guard press a button to close the doors?

The answer, of course, is that they can. So why would the company get the guard to press something to tell the driver to close the doors when they can just as easily have them press something to close the doors themselves? The only answer to that question is that their longer-term aim is to scrap the guard.

First, it will be the guard pressing a buzzer to tell the driver. Then it'll be in-cab CCTV meaning that no guard is needed. We can see where this is going, amd this plan is not acceptable.

We say 'Word is ...' because it has been hard to find out for certain what is going on. Discussions are taking place behind closed doors and above the heads even of our company council reps. RMT promised its guard members in July that it would give us an update by the end of September. That was frustrating enough, but it is now October and we still have no definite news.

If the union keeps on keeping us in the dark, it will find that our patience runs out. We have been fighting this dispute for a long time and we won't allow all the momentum to drain out of it.

It is high time for us to go back on strike, and not stop our action again until we have secured the future of the guard.

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Industrial news in brief

Published on: Wed, 02/10/2019 - 08:52

Ollie Moore, Duncan Morrison and Darren Bedford

London Underground station workers at the east end of the District Line began industrial action from Friday 27 September, in a dispute over workplace safety.

Workers will refuse to detrain or attend incidents alone, and will work from a place of safety, after their union, RMT, launched a campaign to demand safe staffing levels following a spike in antisocial behaviour and staff assaults. Workplace safety is becoming an increasingly acute issue on the Tube, after a serious assault on staff at West Ham station.

Drivers in the RMT on four lines — Victoria, Central, Northern, and Jubilee — will

Industrial news in brief

Published on: Wed, 25/09/2019 - 08:24

Gerry Bates

Strikes in Bristol, Nottingham, Colchester, Newcastle and South London have continued the campaign by Deliveroo riders and the IWGB union, for better pay and conditions.

The Nottingham riders demands included reverting the fee change back to the previous minimum of £3.90 for cyclists and £4.15 for motorised vehicles and removing the vehicle priority which has seen cars and motorbikes get priority over bicycles.

In Bristol an ongoing issue is the safety of riders, particularly moped drivers who have found themselves attacked and victims of robbery while they go about their work.

In Brixton,

Industrial news in brief

Published on: Wed, 18/09/2019 - 09:01

Ollie Moore and Will Sefton

Tube vote for action on noise

Driver members of the RMT union on London Underground’s Victoria, Central, Jubilee, and Northern Lines have voted to take industrial action short of strikes over excessive noise.

Drivers are demanding a permanent engineering solution to the problem of excessive noise in trains. The issue is caused by noise cancelling technology fitted to tracks to avoid excessive noise at street level, which has the effect of forcing the noise into the cabs, where it becomes unbearably loud for both drivers and passengers.

The action, which has yet to be formally named by the RMT,

Industrial news in brief

Published on: Wed, 11/09/2019 - 07:39

Ollie Moore, Jay Dawkey, Cath Fletcher and David Pendletone

UCU ballot opens

University staff belonging to UCU are being balloted for strike action this autumn over pay equality, job security, workload and pay deflation.

Working conditions in higher education have been deteriorating. The gender pay gap is over 15%; over 100,000 staff across the sector are on fixed-term contracts; academic staff work over 50 hours in a typical week; and in the past ten years pay has declined by 20% in real terms.

In 2018 an impressive strike forced pre-92 universities to back down on massive pension cuts, but since then employers have refused to compromise and now they

Rail workers strike again against DOO

Published on: Thu, 05/09/2019 - 08:30

Guards on South Western Railway are striking again from 30 August – 2 September, as their fight against the imposition of Driver Only Operation (DOO) goes on.

Company figures expected that 40% of services would be cancelled on Friday 30 August and Monday 2 September, with up to 50% of services cancelled at the weekend. Union activists believe these figures could be conservative.

As guards prepared for the strike, the news that SWR’s parent company First had received £32 million from the government, in compensation for the impact of anti-DOO strikes. This means that taxpayers have subsidised a

Two workmates die in South Wales: Why is track working not safe?

Published on: Sat, 13/07/2019 - 23:34

The deaths of two track workers near Port Talbot on 3 July was a tragedy that could possibly have been avoided.  Initial reports are that the two workers were using loud equipment and relying on a touch lookout – someone who would tap them to warn them of approaching trains. Exactly why that didn’t happen is not likely to be clear for several months until the Rail Accident Investigation Board publish their report.  Some of the lessons to be learned are probably ones that could have been learnt already though. RAIB has published several reports into worrying near misses in recent years, and Network Rail has often not implemented the recommendations.

When track workers are required to go out and work on the line a system of work is designed to allow them to do so safely.  The safest method of working is “green zone”, where all train movements are stopped.  If that is considered impractical other arrangements have to be made, for example providing lookouts to warn workers of oncoming trains in enough time for them to move out of the way. This is referred to as “red zone” working. Plans are designed so that lookouts have sufficient sightlines, depending on the linespeed and the curvature of the track, to see trains and warn people while there is still a decent amount of time.  However, time and again Network Rail’s plans have not provided people with adequate protection.

RAIB published their annual report for 2018 a few months ago.  In it they detailed that Network Rail have so far failed to properly implement at least 8 recommendations into incidents where track workers were hit by trains or forced to dive out of the way at the last second, dating back to 2011. These include recommendations relating to planning of work, ensuring staff competency, and promoting a culture where people feel able to speak out about unsafe practices.

Following this annual report RAIB have also recently published reports into near misses at Peterborough and at Sundon. At Peterborough a lookout narrowly avoided being hit by a train as the planned system of lookout working wasn’t sufficient for the location. Staff under pressure to get the job done were left using unofficial hand signals over long distances, leading to confusion. RAIB also concluded Peterborough depot were using “red zone” working as the default. Network Rail is required to use the safest method, green zone, by default and only use red zone where nothing else is practical. This is a worrying reminder of the investigation into the death of a track worker at Newark North Gate in 2014, which also concluded that the most dangerous method of working was being used by default and without proper consideration of alternatives.

At Sundon the planned system of work was so vague about how to get to the worksite that the track workers ended up working on the “Up Slow” line, which was open to trains.  They had intended to go to the “Down Fast”, which was closed to traffic. This investigation has led to the RAIB writing to the Office of the Rail Regulator to request action. RAIB have not yet completed their investigation into the death of a track worker last November at Stoats Nest Junction, near Croydon.

The safest method of working on the tracks is to stop train movements. Network Rail has a duty to plan work so that this method is always used by default unless it is not feasible. This is, of course, rather unclear and leaves a lot of wriggle room. A large amount of work is still done with lines open to trains. At a minimum we should be demanding that the requirement to eliminate all other options is properly enforced.

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TDL couriers turn tide

Published on: Thu, 20/06/2019 - 08:29

Alex Marshall, TDL courier and IWGB rep

Twelve months of negotiating. The IWGB’s “Rise of the precarious workers” demonstration descending on TDL’s headquarters doorstep. Demonstrating outside the company Christmas party they weren’t invited to. A two day strike that included a motorbike procession to prestigious clients in the Harley Street area and temporary occupation of the company loading bay. Amazing speakers on the picket line including Owen Jones, Dave “Blacklist” Smith and Dr Louise Irvine and support from clients, entrepreneurs and heavyweights like the ITF. And finally on Friday a breakthrough for the unionised medical

New guards’ strikes up the ante

Published on: Thu, 20/06/2019 - 07:49

RMT has upped the ante in the dispute against DOO on South Western Railway, by announcing a five day strike from 18-22 June.

Despite winning what appeared to be a “guard guarantee” in February via previous strikes, SWR bosses have dithered and have failed to implement an agreement to retain guards’ jobs. Naming new strikes is absolutely the right thing to do, and it’s absolutely right to go big. Incidental one-day strikes won’t get the goods: sustained action might.

RMT needs to finance these strikes to ensure members aren’t forced back to work for financial reasons. And if the action doesn

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