Union prepares for strike ballot as London Underground plans to scrap ‘jobs for life’ deal

In recent meetings with London Underground over the proposed 1,000 job cuts, it has become apparent that management is not carrying out meaningful consultation.

London Underground is trying to force through job cuts, which amount to the first stage in plans by TfL to cut its budget by £2.5 billion. TfL inherited a debt worth over £2 billion from failed privateer Metronet. Instead of cutting our senior managers’ inflated salaries, getting rid of parasitical private contractors and opening the books to public scrutiny, TfL/LUL are attempting to do away with thousands of jobs.

We believe that if TfL/LUL implement their new budget then wave upon wave of job cuts affecting front line staff will be made. A ‘company plan mark two’ of multi-skilling and job cuts may be foisted on our members. TfL senior managers are mooting 2,000 job cuts but will not say where they are going to be carried out.

Management negotiators were effectively trying to get around the agreed ‘Jobs for Life’ deal by introducing an organisational change policy which provided for compulsory redundancies. The ‘Jobs for Life’ deal is self-explanatory; it means that no-one on Metronet or LUL (or TubeLines, or any subsidiary) can be made compulsorily redundant. In times of recession and job insecurity, the RMT will not allow this valuable agreement to be undermined. LUL argued that this only affected backroom staff, but the reality is that once the policy was agreed it would apply to everyone in future programs of job cuts.

Needless to say, the RMT did not dignify this farce by remaining in the meeting. With our fellow union UNITE, we refused to collaborate in doing away with our members’ jobs. The seriousness with which LUL viewed the consultation could be seen in the fact that before they had even outlined the plans to the reps, managers were running around informing staff that they would have to reapply for their own jobs. No safety review was carried out into the implications of the job cuts, which is necessary by law, and LUL even tried to dictate how many people the RMT should have at the meeting.

The meeting today over the ‘jobs for life’ deal resulted in London Underground Human \Resources Director Gerry Duffy claiming that Annex H of the PPP Code of Practice ie. the ‘jobs for life’ deal was “not enforceable and does not mean no compulsory redundancies”, and that former Metronet staff “are not entitled to jobs for life”.

Refusal to talk about pay

In a cynical attempt to avoid pay talks and possibly wait until inflation is at its lowest level, LUL/Metronet and TfL negotiators are refusing to meet with the union about pay. This is completely unacceptable and no serious union can possibly tolerate it.

RMT wrote to your employer in November 2008 outlining our pay claim in full. We attended a meeting with management to discuss this on December 16th, but management refused to give any meaningful reply to our claim.

Head honcho Gerry Duffy says that he will not have pay discussed at the Metronet and LU company councils separately. He proposed instead a hybrid Company Council to sit above the existing ones to talk about pay and the ‘machinery of negotiation’ (the rules under which unions and employers discuss issues with each other). We can not accept this as the proposed hybrid body had few RMT reps on it, leaving us heavily outnumbered by other unions despite having more members than all of them put together. We could not agree to a new body on which we did not have a strong enough voice to represent you and your concerns.

On 6 February, I and your Executive representative Olly New met him to demand pay talks, but he answered that he will not talk about pay until we set up an interim machinery. In the meantime, RMT reps have asked for a Metronet Company Council meeting to talk about pay but have been turned down.

Today, I again contacted Gerry Duffy, as follows: "Gerry, Just in case there was any ambiguity about pay talks, the RMT position is that they should commence immediately with the respective company councils. That is the Metronet company council and the LU company council. There are no ongoing talks on pay at present and we are unable to await the setting up of a joint council to deal with this issue. Many thanks, Steve Hedley."

LUL is demanding the abolition of the Metronet company council in order to undermine a well-organised group of workers, and is therefore refusing to negotiate pay with them.

Pensions are also under threat. Managers are floating the idea of getting rid of current staff who enjoy a final salary pension scheme and employing new people who do not have these pension rights.

We have to fight back

All this amounts to a massive attack on our jobs, pay, terms and conditions. In an uncertain world, buffeted by the credit crisis, we must stand together to protect our hard-won job security and collective bargaining rights. The RMT will not stand idly by and let our members bear the brunt of the mistakes made by bankers and politicians.

It seems that our managers understand only one language; that is the language of industrial strength. Already the union has received ballot requests from our TfL, Metronet and London Underground members. We have listened to what our members want and are prepared to take strike action if necessary.

We call upon all our reps to distribute ‘RMT London Calling’, hold workplace meetings and organise for the coming ballot and dispute. We are an industrial union and together we will fight off management’s attempt to use the credit crunch as an excuse to put our members on the dole.