While many transport workers will now be receiving payments for the extra workload they will face during the Olympics, some are being frozen out — and, not surprisingly, many are those who are already overlooked and super-exploited.
Cleaners on three contracts — ISS and Initial on London Underground, and Carlisle on the Docklands Light Railway — are voting in an RMT ballot for industrial action. ISS and Initial are refusing any Olympics payment, while Carlisle is refusing to pay even the barely-adequate London Living Wage. The ballots close on Thursday 19 July, the same day that the union will also declare ballot results on the London Cycle Hire Scheme, South West Trains, First Great Western and Greater Anglia.
Some Transport for London staff struck for one day starting on the evening of Sunday 1 July. TfL has offered no Olympic payment to many of its staff, expecting them to carry the extra workload with no reward. Despite all TfL’s unions stating that they strongly oppose this, only RMT is taking industrial action. The strike disrupted Travel Information Centres, the Call Centre and other departments, and saw a lively picket at TfL’s headquarters, Windsor House. The strike was followed by a week-long overtime ban.
London Underground continues to insist that it will keep stations open if they fall below minimum staffing levels, by counting minimally-trained “Incident Customer Service Assistants”. RMT is balloting members for “action short of strikes”, planning to boycott this policy and keep stations open.
Janine Booth, London Transport workers’ representative on RMT’s national executive, told Solidarity, “Everyone is entitled to some extra cash for the extra workload during the Olympics. But there is a bigger issue — employers using the Olympics as a pretext to try out casualised forms of working, so they can then impose them after the Games when they set about cutting jobs.
“It is essential that the unions take a stand against this.”
Drivers consider Olympics strikes
After some insignificant concessions the RMT and Unite unions have given up the fight over changes to the East Midland Trains (EMT) pension scheme.
The RMT were hampered by a non-existent campaign to win the ballot and the unwillingness to strike of some members not in the scheme. Unite accepted a minutely larger pay rise to drop its objections whilst TSSA didn’t even ballot.
Drivers’ union ASLEF on the other hand is still in dispute. They face the difficulty of being against the changes while the other three unions, representing a majority of staff employed by EMT, accepted them. That partly explains the strategy adopted, which is to seek a larger pay award, comprising the normal pay increase plus a further percentage increase paid for out of the money the company will be saving by making the changes to the scheme. For this to be meaningful drivers would need to be asking for at least a 6% pay rise, but officials would not commit to a figure.
Whilst ASLEF members are justifiably disappointed with the inaction of the other unions there is still a very strong mood to fight this. One branch has already called unanimously for a series of strike dates to be named during the Olympics.
Having failed to move the company with six days of strike action already, drivers felt that the threat of strike action during the Olympic period was their best chance at getting a result.