Train drivers’ union Aslef has announced a ballot of its members on London Underground, over pay and conditions. The ballot opens on 28 February, and closes on 9 March.
Aslef is a minority union across LU as a whole, but a majority amongst drivers. One of its key demands in pay negotiations thus far has been for a driver-specific salary increase, to bring LU drivers’ pay in line with that of mainline train drivers. Along with all four unions organising in LU, Aslef has also demanded a reduction in the working week.
An Aslef statement said that the union could not “accept a sub-standard offer that gives our members no guarantee of a pay rise for the next two years and does nothing to reduce the working week or close the pay gap with other train operating companies.”
Aslef’s ballot poses a challenge to RMT, the majority union on LU and the only one organised across all grades of workers. RMT is formally in dispute with LU over pay and conditions but has held back from launching a ballot thus far. Many rank-and-file activists have been calling for RMT to launch a ballot for many months.
Negotiations with the company began in February 2019; LU’s latest offer is for a four-year pay deal, covering 2019-2023, with an RPI+0.2% increase in each year. The company says a previous offer, which involved 1.4% pay increases in years two and four and a 30-minute reduction in the working week in those years, and which was rejected by all unions, remains on the table.
Of the four unions organising in LU, one, TSSA, has already voted to accept the latest, “money-only” offer. RMT, Aslef, and Unite remain in dispute.
An RMT rep told Solidarity: “We need to launch a ballot as soon as possible. Aslef is fighting for its driver-only demand: that’s to be expected from what is essentially a craft union. But at least they are taking the fight to the company. They have a relatively compact membership and are likely to hit the threshold in the ballot.
“Management, and City Hall, will be desperate to avoid industrial action in the run-up to Khan’s re-election, so we have some potential additional leverage. We should not settle for a ‘money-only’ offer; this is a historic opportunity to force concessions on working hours and work/life balance. The previous offer, which offset the cost of reducing the working week by proposing reduced pay increases, wasn’t good enough, but we shouldn’t accept the company’s narrative that we can either have a reduced working week or and above-inflation pay rise.
“London Underground is profitable; profits that our labour generates. That money should be used to finance improvements to our working conditions rather than creamed off to subsidise private bus companies, or pay senior directors eye-watering salaries.
“Hitting the thresholds in a ballot of our entire LU membership will be a challenge, but we can rise to it. The last time we balloted across LU was in 2015, before the laws around thresholds were imposed, but that ballot achieved both the 50% turnout and the 40% yes vote. It can be done.”