Health & safety

Industrial news in brief


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.

Industrial news in brief


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.

Rail workers strike again against DOO

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.

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

Submitted by Off The Rails 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.

TDL couriers turn tide


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.

New guards’ strikes up the ante

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.

Industrial news in brief


Zack, Tom Saff and Ollie Moore

Success for Nottingham Riders Network
On Tuesday 30 April, Deliveroo responded to the Nottingham Rider Network - IWGB's demand letter. Beyond a load of the usual fluff, it became clear that NRN-IWGB had made steps forward: winning a hiring freeze, and an agreement to meet.

Industrial news in brief


John Moloney and Ollie Moore

The PCS union’s ballot for action on pay, which closed on 29 April, gained a turnout of 47.7%.

That is over 6% higher than in 2018, but still about 3,000 votes short of reaching the 50% threshold required under Tory anti-union laws. This has highlighted, yet again, the extreme unevenness of our organisation on the ground.

Industrial news in brief

Cleaning workers employed by Vinci on London Overground struck on 5-6 April, demanding a wage increase to the London Living Wage of £10.55/hour.

Currently the workers are paid £10.02.

The workers were previously employed by Carillion, and were transferred to Vinci when their previous employer went bust.
Vinci has refused to offer them a pay increase.

Rail union RMT, which organises the workers, is also demanding that the cleaners now be brought in house and employed directly by Arriva Rail London, the train company that operates London Overground.

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