Training

"Transformation" rolls on: strikes can stop it in its tracks

Published on: Sat, 30/03/2019 - 13:56

As part of the latest phase of the TfL/LUL "Transformation" programme, management has announced sweeping job cuts in Track Access Control, Power Control, Service Control, LUCC, Skills Development, Waste, Pumps, Stations Building & Civils, and Signals Incidents.

Workers who play a vital role in maintaining the safe running of the Tube could see their jobs deleted and find themselves redeployed or forced out of the door.

Unions were hampered in fighting the previous stage of "Transformation", that saw stations admin jobs slashed, partially due to a low density of membership but partially also due to a sluggishness in terms of mobilising a campaign on the shopfloor beyond the negotiations.

We need to learn from that this time. Union density in the affected areas this time is higher, which should put us in a better position to fight back. The cuts have been announced; we must resist. Ballot for strikes now!

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New school vs old school?

Published on: Fri, 21/09/2018 - 11:21

London Underground is attempting to change the culture on the job. Fit for the Future introduced management into the day-to-day stations environment for the first time. LU has appeared recently to favour recruiting from industries with little culture of union organisation.

It has run recent supervisor or management promotion campaigns that have promoted people with, say, a year's experience, overlooking people with 20 years on the job. The impression we get is that it wants bright young things who are not "set in their ways". A lot of us feel resentful. It's a kick in the teeth to have devoted the majority of your adult life to the company, working shifts that wreck your health and social/family life, then get towards the end of your career and feel that LU doesn't value your experience one bit.

Underlying all this is London Underground's drive to create a culture where it's more common to love management than join a union.

The good news is that, while LU has changed its recruitment priorities, it has not changed our conditions - at least not for the better. Inhuman shifts, bullying over sickness: the basic need for a union to challenge management's power and improve our lives has not gone away. We need to resist management's attempt to divide "new school" vs. "old school". We are all in the same boat. We might join with no experience of belonging to a union, but we soon learn that we need one!

LU hopes to take advantage of newer staff, that they will be happy to do more work for less money. All the more reason for the 'old' to reach out to the new, making sure all are in a union and no-one is taken advantage of.

Some changes are positive; for example, it's great that LU's workforce is now more diverse, (although we know LU could do more to tackle discrimination at work). But we should make sure that LU does not succeed in diluting union power in the name of progress.

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"We didn't know you were coming..."

Published on: Fri, 16/02/2018 - 13:43

The words that many new part time and Night Tube starters were greeted with as they introduced themselves on the stations they had been assigned. After being assured by their trainers that they would go to the stations, meet the AM, speak to Cover Group Support and find out who they would be shadowing. Some were even told they wouldn't be on the system properly until they knew they'd passed all their training, that sorting anything out now would be impossible.

Often it was down to CSAs rather than management to sort out what the new starters would be doing. Some wanted to familiarise the new staff straight away and pressure them into doing with a CSA. Others got five minutes on the station and got told to go back to Ashfield and come back again on Monday morning. After a couple of weeks in the classroom, maybe management need to make sure they, "take personal responsibility for your actions, without making excuses about why something isn't possible."

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SATS life?

Published on: Wed, 05/07/2017 - 20:52

The Area Manager at one busy Zone 1 station has opted for the stick over the carrot in response to some disappointing scorecard figures for staff presence on platforms. The AM has instructed CSMs and CSSs to make daily inspections of all SATS duties, effectively creating another level of performance management on top of the existing CMS.

Unsurprisingly, this has led to some ill feeling. The staff doing the SATS feel like they're being spied on and micromanaged, and most of the CSMs and CSSs are resentful at having to do this unnecessary task when they're already overworked.

We all know the scorecard system is largely a nonsense, a semi-arbitrary system capable of capturing mere snapshots, which managers care about far more because of the link to their bonuses than out of any sincere commitment to improving the service. But if there are genuine performance issues with SATS, these should be dealt with within the parameters of existing performance management and coaching procedures, rather than by forcing supervisors to undertake micromanagerial busywork.

Meanwhile, staff on some areas are being herded into "Managing My Platform" workshops, at which they're told that "mystery shoppers" will no longer be scoring them on what they say, but rather on their presence and whether they're delivering "personalised" messages. The idea is that a new automated PA system will handle the informational basics and service info, leaving staff free to remind customers to carry water (or whatever). "Put your own personality into your SATS", staff are told.

Well, here at Tubeworker, "putting our personality" into SATS announcements would probably involve using the RPA to engage in revolutionary socialist oration and excoriation of LU bosses, which is probably not what the company has in mind.

The whole thing raises a few issues for us. Firstly, we're not performers. Not everyone has the inclination to turn SATS into a stand-up comedy routine (and frankly, without wanting to speak ill of our fellow workers, a lot of those who try aren't very good at it). If staff doing SATS want to keep their announcements to the basics, delivered clearly and simply, they should be able to.

Secondly, if LU is effectively saying that what we're actually doing and saying on the platform is secondary, and as long as we're there and saying something, that's alright... then doesn't that strongly suggest they're considering downgrading the safety critical nature of SATS duties?

SATS, remember, are one of the few regular tasks performed on stations that CSA2s, the new entry grade for station staff, can't do. As soon as this grade was created, many of us suspected that it wouldn't be long before LU decided to quickly train them all up to perform the few safety-critical tasks not covered by their current licenses, and consolidate the CSA grades downwards. These reforms to SATS could be an outrider for precisely that.

Our unions need to stand up for SATS as a key safety critical activity. If LU want CSA2s to do SATS there's an easy solution: promote them all to CSA1 and scrap the CSA2 grade.

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IM Emergency?

Published on: Wed, 28/06/2017 - 01:08

LU staff are being told to contact IM (IT) services only in an "emergency". IM services are apparently too short staffed to deal with routine queries.

Hardly surprising! LU decided that iPads and apps were the answer to everything. Tubeworker wonders how many extra IT staff were hired to support all the new technology? Clearly not enough if we're having to beg for IT support.

We have no problem with the introduction of technology. By all means, LU, move with the times. But make sure the technology is properly resourced and functional. At the moment, LU seems more interested in using technology as a cost-saver: cutting staff numbers while claiming we're all more "mobile" and "multi-skilled" because we carry an LU iPad... half of the apps on which don't work!

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Cash Out

Published on: Tue, 13/06/2017 - 05:10

London Underground has not provided enough training to station staff on how to handle cash from the ticket machines since ticket offices closed.

Money piles up in the machines because too few staff are trained on how to take it out. LU brought in new snazzy Cash Handling Devices (CHD), and barely trained us on them, saying they were "easy to use".

But the CHDs do not eliminate much of the fiddly, responsible work of handling cash that a ticket seller used to do. Someone still needs to empty the CHD if it's full, bag the money and prepare it to be collected by the security company.

In reality every station still needs a trained, qualified ticket seller. Many CSAs are not confident to handle cash with the paltry training they have been given. Quite right too! Why should you carry out work that you're neither properly trained nor paid to do?

London Underground was in such a hurry to close ticket offices, and cut ticket sellers' jobs, that it didn't care how it would cope without them. Why should we take on the responsibility of handling cash just to help LU cope with the aftermath of ticket office closures and job cuts?

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In the Sexism Club?

Published on: Thu, 13/04/2017 - 11:25

LUL managers appear to think they are in the TV series 'Life on Mars' as they have woken up in the 1970s (or even earlier) and banned pregnant women from driving trains. They have thrown a particular woman - Kyria Pohl - off her Train Operator training course, and stated that yes, this is because they will no longer allow pregnant women to be in training or to drive a train.

Note to management: PREGNANCY IS NOT AN ILLNESS. Moreover, every pregnancy is different, and while some women may need to avoid particular work tasks while they are expecting, many do not. It is not management's job to treat women staff as though they are fragile and/or incapable: it is to protect their safety and respect their rights. Instead, the company seems determine to deny pregnancy women their dignity and rights - and in the case of trainees such as Kyria, their income as well: being kicked of the course means not getting T/Op training rates of pay, then full rates once passed out.

Fortunately for Kyria, she has a strong and effective union rep at her side, and RMT lawyers are already looking at this case. After all, it is unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of pregnancy.

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Wot No Training?

Published on: Fri, 19/08/2016 - 19:02

Training for station staff still seems to be in a total state post-”Fit for the Future”.

There are huge training backlogs on many groups, meaning few staff have the “TSIDs” required to float or service machines. Staff who’ve been displaced to lift stations are still waiting for lift training and familiarisation.

CDP has been cut right back, with LU’s latest wheeze a two-day “managing our stations” course. Is two days really enough to refresh the operational skills necessary to do our jobs?

Nevertheless, reports from the first waves of staff to participate indicate that the sandwiches were not bad.

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Give Us A Lift?

Published on: Sat, 23/07/2016 - 01:39

Four months after “Fit for the Future”, we’re still hearing of supervisors who haven’t been lift and track familiarised at the stations they were displaced to.

Remember that, prior to "Fit for the Future", LU snuck through a change to the rulebook that meant staff without the core lift license could work on lift stations as long as an on-duty supervisor was licensed. This is bad enough, but when that supervisor or CSM has only the core license but no local familiarisation, LU is essentially allowing lift stations to be open without anyone on site who really knows how to sort things out if there's a problem with the lifts. This has already led to serious incidents at stations such as Regent's Park.

The reason LU is training and familiarising people more comprehensively is simple: coverage is so tight that they can't release anyone for training without risking falling below minimum numbers.

A classic example of a "Fit for the Future" mess.

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"Fit for the Future" Training Fiasco

Published on: Mon, 11/04/2016 - 13:27

If a large organisation intended to launch a new staffing model, which required thousands of staff to perform new roles, you would think it would think it might put procedures in place to ensure that those staff were equipped and trained to perform those roles before the model was launched.

But not London Underground! Notwithstanding the basic fact that "Fit for the Future", LU's new operating model for station staffing, is a completely unnecessary restructure, motivated by austerity cutbacks rather than anything that will improve the service we provide to passengers, even on the company's own terms the launch has been a farce.

Tubeworker can reveal these shocking statistics which show the full extent of the chaos in terms of staff being trained for their new roles:

  • "Ticket Machine Servicing" training (this is training to equip CSA1s and CSA2s, paid £30k and £23k respectively, to perform complicated cash-handling and machine-floating work that SAMFs were previously paid £36k to carry out): only 12% of all staff who need the training have been trained.
  • Station Familiarisations (obligatory and safety-critical processes to make sure staff can work at new locations, with all the relevant licenses): only 34.8% of staff have been trained. As we reported on 4 April, the lack of adequately familiarised staff has already led to multiple station closures and stations having no step-free access, confirming our fears that "Fit for the Future" would particularly disadvantage disabled passengers.
  • Control Room Familiarisations (staff who previously worked as SAMFs or Supervisors in outer-London stations have been forced into Zone 1 to work as "Customer Supervisors" in the control rooms of busy central London stations, a completely different - and highly stressful - working environment that requires substantial training): just 35.3% of staff have been trained.
  • We at Tubeworker HQ doubt whether many station staff will be rushing to the front of the queue to demand training. "Fit for the Future" has displaced us en masse, and forced us into new, more responsible, and more difficult roles for no extra pay. Why should we make the running to help the company's new model work?

    The chaos proves that improving service was never the company's aim. They wanted to cut jobs and reduce costs. For them, the subsequent mess is presumably a price worth paying.

    For us, it means more stressful working lives and a worse service for passengers. Isn't it time for our unions to launch a new dispute to resist "Fit for the Future"'s chaotic consequences?

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