Tube union RMT has launched two parallel ballots of its driver members across London Underground, both closing on 29 June.
One ballot is for action to win reinstatement for Gary Carney, a union rep sacked after allegedly “avoiding” a drugs and alcohol test about which he was not informed. Drivers on Gary’s line, the Central line, were due to strike on 6 May, but strikes were suspended to allow further talks. After London Underground upheld the sacking, the ballot has been widened to include all drivers across the Tube.
The other ballot is for action against so-called “grade consolidation” for drivers. Previously, driving during Night Tube, the 24-hour service running on certain lines on Friday and Saturday nights, was done by a dedicated grade of driver, with regular day shifts done by a separate grade. London Underground has now unilaterally merged those grades, meaning Night Tube shifts will be incorporated into full-time drivers’ rosters, damaging work/life balance. Drivers working Night Tube shifts will receive a shift supplement, equivalent to slightly over £60 after tax. The abolition of the Night Tube driver grade also means fewer driver jobs overall, and closes off potential lines of promotion for staff in other areas, especially existing Night Tube station staff.
When Night Tube was first announced, London Underground insisted the duties would be incorporated into the rosters of existing staff, on both stations and trains. Both RMT and Aslef (a driver-only union which is a small minority across London Underground as a whole, but a slight majority amongst train drivers) struck against this proposal, succeeding in winning an agreement that saw a dedicated Night Tube workforce instated, creating hundreds of relatively well-paid, secure, unionised jobs. London Underground’s unilateral grade consolidation rips up that agreement.
Disgracefully, Aslef are now colluding with the bosses; despite initially opposing grade consolidation, they have since changed their position and have supported London Underground’s plan.
Night Tube has been mothballed throughout the pandemic, and is expected to resume in 2022.
Meanwhile, negotiations between Transport for London, London Underground’s parent company, and the Department for Transport about further funding continue. The last funding bailout expired on 28 May. The Tories want TfL to commit to year-on-year cuts, including £300 million in the current financial year, and to attacks on workers’ terms and conditions such as reforms to the TfL pension scheme, as a condition of further funding. A report in the Financial Times says a £1 billion bailout, which would cover TfL’s budget for six months, is likely.
Aslef members voted in March to take industrial action against potential changes to terms and conditions, and RMT also has policy to ballot members if conditions are attacked as part of any funding deal.