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Tube drivers in industrial action over new rules

Monday, 24 October, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Members of the RMT trade union are set to take industrial action short of a strike after a ballot was passed by a 4-1 majority last week.

Union bosses are concerned that new working practices being introduced by London Underground management may compromise passenger safety. The changes, contained in LU document “Operational Standards Notice 101” makes changes to at least four areas:

  • Carrying passengers who will not or cannot leave the train (for example, through falling ill) into sidings when reversing the train at the end of the line.
  • Drivers departing unaided from stations even if they cannot see the full length of the platform.
  • Allowing drivers to override “sensitive edge” technology on the new S Stock, which automatically stops the train if an item is caught in the doors.
  • Reversing a train from the front cab by up to one carriage’s length – for example, if the driver overruns his stopping point at a station.

450 drivers took part in the ballot, with about 370 voting in favour. RMT members have been instructed to ignore the new regulations by union representatives and work to a previous version.

Bob Crow, secretary of the RMT, said: “We have tried to get LUL to see sense, but they have continued to put cash and job cuts ahead of passenger safety and we had no choice but to ballot for action to put a stop to these dangerous proposals being imposed without agreement and we now have an overwhelming vote for action and it falls to LUL to pull back and start talking.”

The industrial action comes mere weeks after London Underground offered its employees a pay deal that will see some Tube drivers’ salaries exceed £52,000 during the Olympics.

A fresh ballot may take place over a similar management decision to scale back daily testing of tripcock equipment, which automatically stops trains that pass red signals, on S Stock trains. LU managers want to reduce testing to once every 15,000km, which the RMT estimates as being once in every 60 days.

It is unclear how testing can be reduced to 60 days as the testing equipment is physically located on the track, meaning trains are automatically tested as they are driven in service.

London Underground employs about 1,500 train drivers.

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