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So, you want to break the strike?
May 4, 2014 3:42 AM   Subscribe

Frank and inspiring words from a twenty-five year old RMT activist, Lorna Tooley.
posted by Mistress (18 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
What does "RMT" stand for? (And "ACAS" while you're at it?)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:19 AM on May 4


Inspiring.

Here in the Netherlands we're currently in the midst of another cleaners' strike, for better pay and working conditions. They're following the same model of strike that was successfull in their previous strikes of a few years ago, that is concentrating the strike on the highly visible customers of the cleaning companies, like the Dutch railways.

Which means that if you visit the Netherlands at the moment, the disgusting state of the stations is because of this strike, not, as one wit has had it, that they run on Java.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:25 AM on May 4 [2 favorites]


RMT is the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers.

ACAS is the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.
posted by dng at 4:25 AM on May 4 [2 favorites]


the disgusting state of the stations is because of this strike, not, as one wit has had it, that they run on Java

I'm sure the strike is important, but this needs a Nasal Beverage Extraction warning.
posted by Dr Dracator at 6:01 AM on May 4 [2 favorites]


If this is an accurate reflection of the feelings within the RMT and the numbers they can put on picket lines I would not be optimistic about the strike holding.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 6:43 AM on May 4


The strike looks to be failing. Anecdotally I think people were only mildly inconvenienced, with travel not much worse than on a normal poor service day. Is this the post-Bob era dawning?
posted by Segundus at 6:55 AM on May 4


Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory: if you're basing that on the six people picketing in the picture that is the legally mandated maximum in the UK.
posted by biffa at 7:46 AM on May 4 [1 favorite]


I've been using the Underground for over 10 years now and I honestly couldn't tell you what the strike is about. My impression is that the Union is striking to preserve jobs that have become antiquated as a consequence of technological changes.

If the Union actually cares what the riding public thinks, they need to do a better job of explaining why they are striking. Just saying it's about safety is sure to fall on deaf ears as Health & Safety is synonymous with BS to the avg Brit.
posted by JConUK at 8:53 AM on May 4


Management want to close all ticket offices, put the staff in open ticket halls instead, and cut numbers by 950; but without compulsory redundancies and with a promise to 'try' to avoid anyone losing out in pay terms, for what that's worth.

A deal has seemed close several times, but never clinched.
posted by Segundus at 9:38 AM on May 4 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, I don't know what the RMT line is, but pace Lorna I believe some unions don't require people on the brink of retirement to strike because pay in the final year may determine your pension for the rest of your life, so the personal cost is disproportionate.
posted by Segundus at 9:46 AM on May 4


I v much hope they win. It feels v much like Boris J is using this strike as a launchpad for himself, and once again Tories will do anything to win.
posted by rolandroland at 9:50 AM on May 4 [1 favorite]


biffa: "Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory: if you're basing that on the six people picketing in the picture that is the legally mandated maximum in the UK."

That's really the law? Wow.
posted by Lexica at 10:49 AM on May 4


Management want to close all ticket offices, put the staff in open ticket halls instead, and cut numbers by 950; but without compulsory redundancies and with a promise to 'try' to avoid anyone losing out in pay terms, for what that's worth.

Sort of, but it's a bit more complex than just closing all the ticket offices - as Tom Edwards hints at in the BBC piece but doesn't really going into detail about. This is the problem really - it's the epitome of a dispute that takes more than five hundred words (or five minutes) to really explain, and the likes of Tom and other mainstream journalists (both in print and on TV) are almost never given the luxury of time or wordcount anymore.

This is the piece I wrote on LR last year detailing the TfL proposals. It's based both on their internal documentation and on various presentations they made to staff, and their position hasn't substantially moved on from then.

Essentially they want to move to a model more similar to that you increasingly see in retail now. Which means, as you say above, redeploying staff into the ticket hall spaces and massively boosting the functionality of front-of-counter ticket machines.

Your average traveller would thus then be able to carry out a greater range of transactions at machine - e.g. Oyster refunds either themselves or with staff assistance (i.e. circulating in the ticket hall area and overseeing or authorising at a machine as required - much as you'll see in self-checkouts at supermarkets these days).

At stations where there was an acknowledged demand for more regulated window functions - i.e. where you're likely to have a considerable number of people wishing to make transactions who are not familiar with the network or machines or just plain needing information from a human being (e.g. tourists, both foreign and domestic) ticket offices would ostensibly remain, but they'd be revamped to be more targeted against that assistive purpose. So yes, indeed, think National Rail ticket offices - most likely something like you now see at the revamped Kings Cross but on a naturally smaller scale.

TfL took an initial stab at putting stations in each category (i.e. what level of staffing and what type of set up they'd have) and you can find a complete breakdown of that, station-by-station, in the link I posted above. Again, I've no doubt there's been some manoeuvring on this already but the lists there should still be pretty representative.

Ultimately this current dispute is one of those horrible situations where both sides have a point.

TfL are absolutely right that the current style of operation is no longer reflective of the way ticket retail should now work. It's a set up that predates the almost total revolution that has happened in terms of electronic ticketing, and indeed beyond that a digital revolution that has completely changed the way people seek and consume information and services. Their ticket sales operations need to be updated to reflect this, not just because it will realise some savings at a time when their purse is being squeezed by the Treasury, but also to make sure that they interact with travellers in the way that those travellers expect.

On the other side, the Unions are absolutely right that such a transition will have an enormous impact on real people, some of whom have been doing their jobs in the same way for twenty years or more. It is a huge change exercise and one that handled badly has the real potential not only to negatively affect the lives of thousands of employees, but also to negatively affect the way that travellers interact with the network if decisions on which stations get what level of staffing are based on pure data or a lack of consultation with the people who work on those stations on a daily basis.

By rights then, both parties should meet in the middle and agree that this all needs to be carried out in a reasonable manner, both making some concessions in order to reach a compromise.

The problem though is that there really is no way to do that without both sides being able to put some degree of trust in the other that the spirit of that compromise will be obeyed not just the law. And pragmatically speaking that just can't happen. Because the relationship between TfL and its unions - particularly the RMT - is less like one between Employer and Staff and more like that of an old married couple who have been bickering for thirty years and have both, at some point, cheated on the other.

So the result is both sides cementing a position, both sides pushing the extremes of that position to the media and travelling public, and - almost certainly - TfL ultimately getting their way because at some point most union members need to work, which would be an absolute shame not because what TfL want to do isn't right, but because it would be implemented better if the Unions were there acting as a reality check and bringing the day-to-day knowledge their staff possess firmly into the equation.

Frankly the whole thing is a trust clusterfuck, for which there is unfortunately no real (let alone easy) solution, but for which both sides can be both blamed and understood.

I v much hope they win. It feels v much like Boris J is using this strike as a launchpad for himself, and once again Tories will do anything to win.

Not really - frankly, these strikes were the last thing that the Mayor wanted. There's no easy win to be had here for him in this dispute.

Boris may well be the darling of the Right but ultimately most of his reputation is built on an awful lot of style over substance. He isn't Thatcher - he can't send in the Met and get them to knock the strikers around a bit as he doesn't have that kind of genuine political or constitutional clout. Indeed even if he did, were he to try it he'd probably very quickly find himself on the wrong side of TfL as much as the strikers. As an organisation they're not completely stupid, and they know that whatever the current difficulties they face in trying to push through change, those difficulties will be magnified a thousand-fold if any of that kind of eighties-esque nonsense were to happen.

So instead all these strikes do is highlight to the Tory party, at the worst time for him (when he's about to return to Westminster politics), that he's not the vanguard of a glorious return to the old days that he claims to be. At the same time they serve as a reminder to the electorate - in London at least - that all his ludicrous manifesto promises at the beginning of his reign about getting the unions to sign "no strike" deals, or getting his pal Cameron to push through legislation banning them from striking, or - more importantly that no ticket office closures would ever happen on his watch no matter what the reason, were all utter bollocks and that you can't trust anything he says to get elected - locally or nationally.

No, Boris would have been quite happy if TfL could have held off on doing anything until he was safely back in Westminster. Trouble was their hand was largely forced by Boris's pal George over at the Treasury demanding cuts across the board and, in part thanks to that, have zero desire to do Mr Johnson any favours when they've now got to push through a whole modernisation programme and cut spending.
posted by garius at 10:55 AM on May 4 [14 favorites]


That's really the law? Wow. Yeah, that surprised me. Looking it up it seems that is not really the law but a guideline from the police that the unions have been to scared to challenged because of the weakness of article 11/10 rights at the ECHR. It's kind of an accidental casualty of the growth of privacy rights.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 1:11 PM on May 4


Pas you say theoretically it's a guideline but as you say its treated effectively as law when the unions are organising a picket, based on having being on strike with a couple of unions and am awareness of the general practice..
posted by biffa at 1:57 PM on May 4


Thanks, garius
posted by JConUK at 2:15 AM on May 5


garius, thanks for your fantastic and very informative response. Apologies for my rather moronic comment in comparison.
posted by rolandroland at 3:12 AM on May 5


I wouldn't categorise it as moronic at all! It was a completely natural reading of the situation if you weren't aware of the full "behind the scenes" picture, which can be hard to get in the current soundbite-heavy media environment. Hence my comment to add a bit of context.

Anyway, the good news is that, for now at least, the strike is off - so with any luck my assertion that the two sides would struggle to find some element of trust will prove to be overly pessimistic in the long run. It's something I'd be very happy to be wrong about!

Full ACAS statement (to which both parties have agreed):
1. The station by station review will continue with all the trades unions invited to participate and contribute, additionally the proposed FftF-S implementation plan will also be reviewed. This exercise should be completed by 23rd May 2014. During this period of discussion LU would continue to keep on hold all VS applications.

2. The outcome of the exercise will be discussed at a meeting chaired by ACAS

3. LU would enter into further detailed discussions to ensure that any employees identified as in scope of the Fit for the Future - Stations proposals on 21 November 2013, and who do not choose to leave the business under voluntary severance, would be offered a role that involves no reduction in their current substantive salary. This arrangement would be specific to the Fit for the Future – Stations programme.
posted by garius at 5:17 AM on May 5


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