Rail union RMT has again announced strikes over Night Tube “grade consolidation”. Management are intent on destroying work-life balance and bumping up dangerous fatigue-inducing shift patterns in order to save themselves some cash.
The first 24-hour strike is on 26 November, followed by strikes during Night Tube hours every Friday-Saturday until 17-18 December, with a further 24-hour strike on 18 December. All existing Night Tube lines (Central, Victoria, Jubilee, Northern, and Piccadilly lines) are striking on 26 November and 18 December; the two reopening now (Central and Victoria) will be striking during Night Tube services on the weekends in between.
Attendees at Workers’ Liberty “After Corbynism: building a new left” event on Saturday 27 November will be joining the picket lines that evening.
Train operators in both unions, RMT and Aslef, now have a simple choice: respect picket lines and fight to defend work-life balance, or don’t, and signal to management that their opening salvo in the plan to remake the post-lockdown Tube workplace has been a success.
Grade consolidation isn’t just management tinkering. An entire grade, the part-time TO23 role, was scrapped; longstanding agreements reached at Acas were ripped up; and drivers, many of whom have worked for LU for decades, have said that they would now be working significantly more weekends and night shifts. It’s no overstatement to describe the plan as a betrayal of a grade who worked full shifts throughout Covid lockdowns, imposed by a senior management team who had the luxury of coming up with these schemes from the comfort and safety of their own homes.
A recent company bulletin from senior bosses shows the disdain and lack of respect they have for us, who they insist on patronisingly referring to as “our people”.
The bulletin states: “We’ve continued meeting with [RMT] to hear their concerns, but we’ve been presented with no realistic alternatives [to grade consolidation]”. Tubeworker knows that one “realistic alternative” is the model that was in operation for three years before Covid. Another “realistic alternative”, even within a consolidated model, is to make Night Tube shifts voluntary.
If bosses need some certainty over coverage, this could be done with a fixed-link system, with a notice period or waiting list required to withdraw.
The reason management don’t want to make the Night Tube shifts voluntary is that they know most full-time drivers don’t want to work night shifts.
The bulletin goes on to say: “Grade consolidation was a positive change for […] our people. It allowed us to […] become a fairer place to work.” Tubeworker knows though that any driver forced to work a night shift they don’t want to work, and didn’t have to work before grade consolidation, will struggle to see how it is “fairer” or a “positive change”.
The RMT-organised Night Tube strikes are the first opportunity we have to demonstrate to management, to the Mayor of London, and to the Tory government, that we won’t stand by and let them attack our terms and conditions in this way.
Aslef members left wondering why their own functional council reps chose not to consult with them on the changes should do the right thing. All drivers should respect, and join, the picket lines and be a part of a fight against this first round of cuts and attacks on our work-life balance.
Train operators must send a strong message, via solid strikes and well-supported picket lines. Going forward all Tube workers, in all functions and grades, should prepare for joint action so we can show management what we, the workers, see as being “fair” and “realistic” for giving up a massive chunk of our lives for London Underground to keep the system going during the pandemic.