ACAS Talks - The Truth

Report on talks at ACAS, 2 May 2014, about Every Job Matters dispute with London Underground Ltd from John Leach, RMT Regional Organiser

So, what really happened?

At 10:00 hours yesterday morning, I as Regional Organiser and eleven other lead reps from all grades attended talks at ACAS to see if we could find a way forward in this dispute.

The dispute involves all grades because LUL has told us that the £4.2 billion savings will affect everyone in the company. The proposal to cut 953 jobs, close every ticket office and reduce salaries (by up to £12,000) among station grades is just the first wave. This makes up only the first 6% of the savings. We all know that it will be pensions, driverless trains and job cuts in engineering next.

I presented to LUL some simple ways forward:

1. To enable proper consultation to take place (specifically, the public consultation voted for by the GLA and the station-by-station review promised in February), management would halt the implementation of their proposals until these consultations were complete.

2. That the company reconfirm its written statement made in February that the station-by-station review may result in some ticket offices staying open.

3. That the company give all our members in ALL GRADES (because all grades are affected by the £4.2 billion cuts) proper protection of earnings that would be pensionable and for life.

RMT negotiators stated that if London Underground Ltd agreed to these steps, we would recommend suspending our strike action starting on 5 May. The discussion with LUL, assisted by ACAS, seemed to be quite positive and we seemed to be making some slow, small progress.

Then around 16:00, this changed. LUL stated that in return for three weeks of talks, it would pause its implementation of the cuts, but would require RMT to fully and permanently close our dispute. Management would expect RMT to effectively assist in processing the redundancies. They made no offer to protect earnings, saying nothing about our demand for all grades in LUL to be treated fairly and given proper protection. They said that the commitment they gave in writing in February that some ticket offices could stay open no longer applied. This is an open admission of breaking the agreement they made following our first strike, and a declaration that all ticket offices will close.

It got worse. LUL also stated that it wanted RMT to withdraw our current dispute Every Job Matters.

It got worse. LUL also stated that it wanted RMT to withdraw our current dispute Every Job Matters. This was provocative and hostile. LUL knew we could not and would not accept it. To agree to that would be to accept 953 jobs going, every ticket office closing, inadequate protection, 20% lower pensionable salaries, a two-tier workforce and massive displacements - and this making up only 6% of the cuts with 94% to be made from other grades later. It would be an insult to you and the four days' strike action you have taken so far and the sacrifices you have made. This was nothing we would agree to and everything we would resist with all our effort.

I have been involved in industrial relations in London Underground Ltd for over 25 years. I have never seen anything quite like this from management on the eve of strike action. The political strings are pulling hard, but to trash the chance of progress deliberately and willingly shows complete contempt for RMT members across all of LUL. It is an appalling approach to industrial relations. I have seen four Employee Relations Directors and three Managing Directors come and go ... but we stay! The senior management going along with this should reject this contempt and arrogance.

RMT is - as ever - available for talks at any time, including between now and the start of the strike.

RMT is - as ever - available for talks at any time, including between now and the start of the strike. It is still possible to find a way forward that would enable us to suspend next week's action. You can see from the numbered points above that despite the company's propaganda otherwise, RMT has put a simple, achievable, constructive way forward, that management could easily agree to. It is not too late for LUL's leadership to abandon its reckless and dogmatic refusal to do so.

So the strike remains on - we have no choice. It will be hard, but we have to fight. I think everyone in their hearts and heads know this. I believe that we saw earlier on Friday that we can win progress against these savage cuts - it was only management's switch to intransigence later in the day that scuppered this progress. We can speculate as to what prompted this change of heart - perhaps political interference?

RMT will keep up our resistance to these cuts, not just talk about it. We must build and build and build our resistance. We are in for years of struggle. Everyone knows that it will be pensions next. Stand by for yourselves, your workmates, your union and all of our futures. We have seen that solid action opens the possibility of stopping cuts.

John Leach
Regional Organiser
RMT London Transport Region