Tuesday, 1 July 2014

In my defence I did say that I have been rather absorbed with life outside of work recently but as Auxsetreq commented after my last post there is something going on.  Two weeks ago both Leytonstone and Western Electric branches voted to ask the ASLEF Executive Council to ballot for strike action on the Central Line. 

On Saturday I hastily jotted down the issues from the notices that have gone up at the depots -

- Incorrect recording and managing of staff errors

- Misuse and abuse of the Case Conference system

- Staff being asked to do overtime

- Prompt dispatch

- Management not dealing with late running issues

- Annual leave not being granted when asked for within the 28 days specified.

- Misinterpretation of LU Occupational Health and Doctors advice

- Timetable issues

- Failure to abide by local agreements

I was certainly aware that there was plenty of late running with the latest timetable and I’ve mentioned it here but for the rest I’ll admit I hadn’t heard anything at all nor can I offer any explanation of how things have reached the stage where we are considering strike action.

I would ask around but I’m on annual leave for the next two weeks, I've spent two days thoroughly enjoying doing absolutely nothing and the only reason I might go into work is to check on the goldfish.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Another period of silence from me mostly because I’ve been busy with other commitments (Old Mother shrugged continues to improve) but also because very little has happened or at least nothing that hasn’t happened before.  We still don’t have enough TOps to cover everything, there is a big problem with absence at one of the depots –it’s currently HAI’s turn - the number of faults on trains while they’re in service is still noticeably higher under the current timetable and there are power still supply problems at various locations.  One nasty one is on the EB approach to SHB where on several occasions all four units have lost motors leaving the train to coast into the platform at a snail's pace before it came to a stop and I could hit the reset button..

The only thing that stands out is the wildlife.  A few weeks ago up towards the rabbit kingdom between DEB-THB I was scanning the trackside for bunnies when I saw something that looked like a deer, about the size of a small dog or a fox.  I did a bit of checking online and found that there have been sightings of Muntjacs in Essex but last week halfway between SNA and LES on the WB I saw another, unmistakeably a small deer climbing up the embankment from the cable run.

Keep your eyes peeled on the EPP branch, animal lovers, there’s Muntjacs about.

Friday, 9 May 2014

I must admit I was surprised when RMT said they’d be going ahead with this week’s strike so the news that they’d called it off wasn’t unexpected.  From what is being said  they’ve got LUL to offer the SAMFs and CSAs a similar deal to the one TSSA announced for DSMs and SSs so no one will be facing a pay cut in 2018 if the get downgraded.  Even so Tuesday seemed eerily quiet, perhaps not everyone got the message that the strike was cancelled or maybe they’d not all recovered from the Bank Holiday.

Yesterday everything had gone horribly wrong before I booked on, a train had gone defective at LEY WB, it turned out the ATP controller had failed which meant it wasn’t going to move in ATO or CM so Wood Lane decided that the best thing to do was go to BEG in RM then reverse back over the crossover, a 6.5km trip at 15kph.  My first half was a simple LES-EAB-WHC but my train had been put away in WHC sidings so I was told to go there, bring it out on the EB and hand it over to whoever was relieving me for my meal break.

That would have worked fine except with the delays and disruption it took me about an hour and 15 minutes to get to WHC.  I arrived 20 minutes after I was due to come out of the sidings and just over half an hour before I was due to pick up my second half which was possibly the only train running on time.  So my first train stayed in the sidings, I had the shortest allowable meal break and picked up my second half, WHC-NOR-LOU-NOA-HAI via NEP and then back on the cushions to LES.

When I reached NOR I was told to extend up to WER where the train would be taken off me, turned into another train, wait for the train that mine had been turned into and make that into my one.  When I got to WER the train I was to take over was at TCR WB and by the time I eventually left WER I should have been at TCR EB.  When I reached RUG the platform indicators showed the train as only going to NOR, I called up Wood Lane who said they’d spotted the mistake and I was to go to LES but shortly after they’d shortened the trip even further to LIS.

That all went perfectly, I went into the sidings at LIS and came out on the WB back on time.  I wasn’t too late getting to NOA but delays going back EB meant that when I was due to hand over at HAI I was only just arriving at LES.  Fortunately the TOp who was meant to be taking me off at HAI had only started their meal break so a spare had been sent to take me off and run the train round to WOO via HAI so after all that I got away a little earlier than expected.

Which was nice.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

I spent yesterday shuttling between LES and EPP, not quite as monotonous as the W&C or when I did HAI-NEPs during engineering work but after the third of fourth I was certainly heading for “Groundhog Day”.  There were a few RMT TOps skulking around the depot, not wanting to pop outside for a smoke in case their colleagues on the picket line spotted them and I suspect there will be a few more today.  There were a few mutters about switching to ASLEF and I’ve heard that membership forms are in short supply.

TSSA’s decision to stay at the table has damaged the strike's effectiveness, the station staff are despondent enough with the reorganisation, losing more money just doesn’t seem worth it.  The unions will eventually thrash something out with management, RMT will hail it as a great victory and take all the credit for themselves.  Things will get back to normal, staff will get shunted around, the ticket offices will close and then ……..

Fit for the Future: Trains.

To paraphrase Crocodile Dundee “You call that a strike?  THIS is a strike!”

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

And we’re off on the Great Strike of 2014 Part 2.  It seems that everyone decided to follow TfL’s advice and get home as soon as they could, the peak was extra busy with passengers cramming themselves on my train like it was the last lifeboat on the Titanic.  When I went back through the Pipe on my second half London seemed deserted but while other lines were reporting delays and serious delays due to strike action the Central seemed to be unaffected.

It was only as I approached NOA on the EB that Wood Lane told me to tip out at WHC, run empty to LES and then go back into service as all the Section 12 stations were closing down.  I don’t know if this was because they didn’t have enough staff or simply as a precaution in case the night duty Supers didn’t show up but after 22:00 Central London was shut down.

I tipped out at WHC, explained to the dozen or so passengers waiting on the platform what was going on and headed off empty across London.  At SHB there were three passengers on the platform looking hopefully as I approached, at HOP two passengers were being ushered out by a member of station staff but after that the platforms were deserted apart from the mice who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the absence of humans.

At STR there were a good two dozen people waiting as I sailed through the station but between LES and EPP I only picked up three passengers, one of which was a LOU TOp who’d stabled their train at WOO.  I put my train away at LOU just after midnight and caught the last train back to LES, all the other last trains were running so as far as train staff are concerned the Central Line seems to have been unaffected.  Things could be quite different when I get into work later today.

The only other thing I noticed yesterday was that there appears to be an upsurge in graffiti, the last LES train had been tagged and someone has been busy between SOW and SNA; they’ve even sprayed two of the billboards on the WB platform at SNA and one of the roundels on the west end of the EB.  I was off over the weekend but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t there last week, knowing that SNA is one of the stations that occasional gets left unstaffed I’m wondering if some little git noticed this and decided to do a bit of freestyle decorating.  Wonder how much unwanted paint will have been added after the strike?

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Okay I’m going to have to admit I think I might have got a little confused.

The CSS grade will be qualified to the level of a Station Supervisor rather than to the level of a SAMF or SACR and they will be earning the equivalent of an SSMF, £42778, rather than the SAMF/SACR salary of £35019.  Somewhere between writing my first post back in December and today I forgot that as well as working on Gateway and Destination stations CSSs will be responsible for running the 64 Local A stations and from what TSSA said  it looks as if they will also be extended to the 61 Local Bs that would have been staffed by CSAs.

Rather than CSMs being Supervisors with a fancy title they will be more like DSMs with a few bits of the Station Super job tacked on so RMT are indeed correct in saying that more management jobs created, from 228 (38 GSMs, 190 DSMs) to 1068 (97 AMs, 336 CSM1s, 635 CSM2s), which gives us the magical 840 that they are going on about.

I suppose in the end the question is what constitutes “frontline staff”?  You cannot begin to imagine just how glad I am I made the decision to leave stations for trains where there is no confusion about roles, grades or salaries; TOps are all qualified to the same level, we all have the same responsibilities, we all get paid the same.  Let’s keep it that way.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

In September RMT will elect a new General Secretary and candidates are already stepping forward to fill Unkle Bob’s somewhat larger than life shoes.  I’ve been talking to RMT colleagues both on the Tube and on the mainline and then doing a little Googling to get an idea of who might be next to become the hate figure for millions of Daily Mail readers in the next five years.  If I’ve made any errors then my apologies to the gentlemen concerned, as with all my posts I am always willing to retract and correct.
Mick Cash is one of the two Assistant General Secretaries and currently Acting Gen Sec so he’s getting a bit of attention as he’s “leading” the strikes next week.  Like Bob he joined the railways straight from school, starting at BR’s Signals and Communications Department, became an active member of the Watford branch before becoming a full time RMT official in 2002.  Unlike Bob he is very much from the “right wing” of the union and when Jimmy Knapp retired in 2002 Mick helped organise the election campaign of one of Bob’s rivals.
He was a local Labour councillor, used to sit on Labour’s National Executive Committee and he angered the left wingers by abstaining from the vote when RMT were expelled.  Not unexpectedly opinion is divided among those RMT members I’ve spoken to, the left see him as not militant enough while the right see him as refreshingly moderate after years of militancy.
Steve Hedley is the other Asst Gen Sec and is the polar opposite of Mick Cash, at the last GLA elections he stood as a candidate for the Trades Union and Socialist Coalition, the ragbag of minor left wing parties that Bob cobbled together in 2010.   Like Bob he’s an ex-Tube worker, from the Engineering branch but unlike Bob he came to the railways through Birkbeck College and a Catholic grammar school in Derry.
He’s certainly up for a fight, a keen amateur boxer who was convicted of assaulting a manager during the RMT/TSSA strikes at the end of 2010 but cleared on appeal when CCTV footage that had been “overlooked” at his trial proved his innocence.  That appears to be the stumbling block with some of the RMT members I talked to, he’s just too pugnacious, too abrasive and lacking in diplomacy to succeed Unkle Bob (and yes I’m sure some of you read those words in utter disbelief).
John Leach is an ex-Station Super from the Central Line, was RMT President from 2006 to 2009, is the London Regional Organiser and is also getting his face seen doing interviews with the media in the run up to the strikes.  He seems to fall somewhere between Cash and Hedley politically, certainly on the left but like Bob not enjoying the full support of the hardliners (again I can feel some of you reading that in disbelief).  He’s been equally prepared to stand up to management and the union leadership, having had a few disagreements with Bob in the past.  He seems to be generally regarded as a decent bloke who make a good Gen Sec although some think he's a bit too much like Bob.
The only other name I’ve seen nominated is Edinburgh’s Alan Pottage, another “lifer” who started as a 19 year old guard back in 1982 and is the National Organising Co-ordinator.  As most of my contacts are London-based no one seems to know much about him, the only thing I’ve been able to find out about him online is that he plays the bass and recently recorded a tribute to Bob Crow with the Alabama 3, the South London band who did the music at the start of “The Sopranos”.

Feckin' cool or what?