Vote 'Yes' on London Underground

2021-11-03 -
Array, ASLEF
A London Underground train is moving into a platform and is blurred. There are some people (also blurred) standing on the platform.

ASLEF's London Organiser Finn Brennan explains the importance of the ASLEF ballot to protect London Underground agreements and pensions:

ASLEF members across London Underground are balloting for action to protect our pensions, working arrangements, and agreements.

More than 18 months after the start of the Covid pandemic, the financial crisis it triggered at Transport for London continues. Although passenger numbers have slowly grown, they are still at only around 60% of pre-pandemic levels, well below the level expected when TfL set an emergency budget in July. The jump in inflation, and additional costs of the national insurance increase, and energy, have all added to the problem.

We asked management to provide assurances that they would honour all existing agreements and commit to making changes only by agreement. As they have refused to so, our ballot for industrial action is the only reasonable response. 

So far all central government has provided is a series of short-term funding arrangements tied to unacceptable strings –
including a review of TfL’s pension arrangements and the development of so-called ‘driverless’ trains. To deal with the funding
shortfall, London Underground management is reviewing every aspect of the business. As trains council rep Maeve Hanley points out below, train drivers’ conditions and agreements are firmly in their sights. We have repeatedly asked management for assurances that they will honour all existing agreements and not make changes to our terms and conditions of employment, or pension benefits, without agreement.

They have refused to give us these assurances, making their intentions clear. They plan to get rid of any agreements that they
deem hinder ‘flexibility’ and use a review of pension provision as an excuse to cut our benefits.

Despite all the warm words about ‘fairness’ and ‘modernisation’, the company’s intention is to make staff work harder, for longer, for less!

Top of the list of members’ concerns is protecting pension arrangements. The TfL scheme is an excellent one. It is well-managed and fully funded. But the aim is to cut the contribution that the employer pays and the benefits that members receive.

Do not underestimate just how much this could cost you. Moving away from a defined benefit, final salary, scheme to a defined cost ‘money purchase’ scheme – as many employers have already done – would mean members will be many tens of thousands of pounds worse off in retirement.

This is not hyperbole. It is the stark reality of what proposed changes to our pension scheme could mean for your future living standard and the dreams you have for your future.

We all know how unfair this is.

A year ago, the government called us heroes for keeping the Tube trains running in the capital. When we try to protect our conditions and incomes, we will be called villains and worse. But simply complaining that something is unfair doesn’t change it. And you would have to be very naïve to think that the government is simply going to change its mind and provide TfL with all the money it wants without trying to impose strings and attacks on staff conditions.

We will only be able to protect our conditions, our agreements, and our pensions if we demonstrate that we are prepared to fight to do so. Powerful speeches or strongly-worded resolutions might make us feel better, but they won’t change anything. Only our ability to take effective industrial action at a time of our choosing will make management take a step back.

ASLEF has been completely open about our approach. We are prepared to negotiate and to discuss changes. But we will not
be bullied, and we will not have detrimental change forced on you, our members, without agreement. That is why we asked management to provide assurances that they would honour all existing agreements and commit to making changes only by agreement. As they have refused to so, our ballot for industrial action is the only reasonable response. A big ‘Yes’ vote will show management they will have a fight on their hands when they come for your conditions and pensions. But they will count every negative or non-returned ballot as a green light to do exactly what they want.

Your future is in your hands. To protect it, support your union, vote ‘Yes’, and return your ballot paper by Monday 8 November.

 

Maeve Handley, trains functional council, says that while managers want to tear up our agreements, that’s nothing new:

Since the beginning of this pandemic Tube train drivers across London Underground continued to come to work on the frontline while many office workers worked from the safety of their own homes. As passenger numbers are now beginning to rise, we are starting to return to some sort of normality, which is good news. The first order of business from London Underground seems to be an attack on our terms, conditions, and pensions.

We have made our position very clear. We are always willing to meet and discuss proposals. However, we do not have anything to give for free.

Over a period of four weeks management presented your representatives on the trains functional council with several detailed slideshow presentations detailing how skint they are while quoting the billions of savings they need to make. These presentations listed most of our train driver agreements.

While it may seem harmless on paper, the reality is that they do not intend to honour our agreements as they say they are too costly and too confusing! ASLEF has offered to explain our agreements to them but their claims are just a smoke screen and their intentions are clear. They have repeatedly stated they no longer think the attendance at work policy is workable (basically they want to sack more staff) and our spare ratio is far too costly. They have quoted figures of time spent ‘in cab’ and said it is an average of five hours 26 minutes!

So when you next book on for your eight hour shift maybe it will feel like only five and a half hours! Somehow, we doubt it…

They want more flexibility, more productivity, with fewer agreements that apparently ‘confuse’ their managers. The reality is that management has difficulty keeping up, don’t like it, and claim it costs them too much money. We have made our position very clear. We are always willing to meet and discuss proposals. However, we do not have anything to give for free. They want our agreements, but that’s nothing new. They have always wanted our agreements. Nothing is free in this life and that includes our hard-fought agreements.

One thing for sure is that we are facing changes, but we will stick together to ensure that any changes benefit train drivers and not management. TFC reps have been visiting all branches and we will continue to attend branch meetings to keep you up to date with these issues. Zoom meetings have played an important role over the last year but nothing beats a physical face-to-face meeting. So please make sure you get to your local branch, and are kept in the loop.