RMT up front, issue 18, November 2011

Click on the attachment to see the latest issue of RMT up front, the newsletter for drivers on London Underground. This issue features articles on LU's 'operational vision', Olympics 2012, and LU' misuse of the drug and alcohol policies.

Main story follows:

Unite against ‘Driverless trains’

Management’s plans for your future have now been fully exposed thanks to the diligence of your Union.
It is clear that they want to move away from drivers cabs and introduce “train attendants” who will focus on “customer facing” duties. These plans are well developed despite management’s earlier attempts to fob it off as “blue sky thinking” (more like Pie in the Sky thinking) and have their roots in a determination at a political level to weaken the influence of the trade unions.
These plans if realised will start with the automation of the Waterloo and City Line on a trial basis (we assume to make the safety case for rolling it out to other lines) and then move on to the Bakerloo, Piccadilly and Central Lines which was described at a recent presentation to our Trains Functional Council Representatives as their “deep tube” project.
What makes this project distinct from other automated lines is a deliberate strategy to build trains with no driver cab and hence no dedicated staff to watch the road ahead and have complete control of the PTI. This means the main safety critical of activities of your job will be removed, training will be dumbed down to a basic level and there will attempts to rip up framework agreements and to multiskill these attendants for other duties probably checking tickets. Also these trains are planned to be lighter which will require less maintenance and have less impact on the track. It is also envisaged to have a central controlling point for these lines.
In essence it is an attempt to run a service that needs fewer staff with less training and where any industrial action will be neutralised by use of a “scab workforce” who can be trained up in a couple of weeks and break strikes.
If realised these plans will be a direct attack on your job and the terms and conditions you now enjoy. With the threat of industrial action neutralised they will have a free hand to rip your framework agreement leading to longer working hours, they will be at liberty to attack levels of pay and other benefits such as pensions. You will have no job security and there will be a ready scab workforce. This is not a vision of the future we share.
For a start these plans are
They have never been tried on a system as busy London Underground and there have been major incidents involving fatalities where driverless operation has been used both in Washington DC and in Germany.
They do not have public support. Even a recent survey in the anti union Evening Standard highlights that public opinion is heavily divided on this subject and that is without the full details of what they are planning being available which by the way includes wholesale ticket office closures and further attacks on other grades leading to a less safe railway.
They are expensive.
At a time when we are being told to pull our belts in knuckle down these plans are fantastically expensive and will probably require further privatisation of the system which has already been completely discredited with the demise of the ill fated PPP.
They will casualise the workforce.
As we have said apart from the massive attacks that these plans would have on your terms and conditions and job security for you and your family they would make it very easy for management to train staff up to do front line jobs in a couple of weeks or maybe less and have a ready army of scabs or workers on temporary contracts etc which will have a downward spiral effect on safety and pay and make it harder to move into other grades when you want to change your job or have to because of medical reasons or disciplinary action.
For all these reasons these plans need to be vigorously opposed and it is clear that there has to be an all grades approach due to the general attack on all grades which this time also includes a direct attack on your grade. Whilst we welcome technology where it improves safety and makes your job easier this is clearly an attempt to use technology to get rid of you not to help you. Already we have heard the attempt to divide the grades and even members within the driver grade with a promise of a driver job for life. This seems to be a cynical attempt to fob off concerns and split the unions once again. Anybody who seriously thinks that management will honour this promise once the technology and trains are in are in serious denial of the way they operate in reality.
Plans are afoot to formalise a strategy against these plans but what is clear is that an attack on this scale for your future and for the safety of the system will need a coordinated response that is well supported by the members. In the coming weeks and months it is imperative that all members are engaged in the process and where possible you attend branch and train grade meetings or keep an eye on developments at our website. We will need to stick together and show unity and defeat these brainless plans.