London grounded to a halt on Thursday 9th July as tube workers decided to strike over the new policies surrounding 24 hour underground services. As expected, many took to social media to shout their woes, not understanding why the unions exercised their right to strike, as all attempts of compromise were insufficient and rejected. With
London grounded to a halt on Thursday 9th July as tube workers decided to strike over the new policies surrounding 24 hour underground services. As expected, many took to social media to shout their woes, not understanding why the unions exercised their right to strike, as all attempts of compromise were insufficient and rejected. With many arguing that the TfL workers’ are ‘greedy’, it seems as though there’s a need for clarity on why these strikes took place; according to the workers, it was not about money, but about quality of life.
Some workers became so frustrated by the public’s reaction that they have taken to Facebook to voice their concerns. Mick Davey wrote: “This dispute has never been about money, It is about protecting work life balance and making sure that change in contracts are negotiated, not just imposed.”
So, we decided to ask ourselves, has this strike been amplified by the media, portraying workers in a negative light for simply exercising their rights?
In order to truly understand from a distressed worker’s point of view, Politics Made Public has interviewed a worker who has chosen to stay anonymous. They will be directly affected by the new 24 hour tubes and are one of the 92% who voted for strike action.
Why, from a TfL worker’s perspective, are workers striking?
There are a number of disputes that have led to this, primarily concerns about the introduction of the night tube. Striking is a last resort, but TfL have refused to budge and discuss our concerns, so we’ve been left with no choice.
We can’t and won’t work on a railway that isn’t safe. For night tube, TfL have torn up the existing framework agreement including minimum staffing numbers for stations, which means we would have stations operating with one lone staff member, or some may even have no one at all. The staff for night tube are being recruited as new part-timers, so they’ll have no experience and the bare minimum training, and be thrown straight into the deep end. Existing staff will have the number of nights they work increased to potentially unlimited levels, even having signed contracts with maximum night limits. Night work takes its toll on health, not to mention life outside of work.
Shift work means I rarely see my kids as it is, doing more nights will close the door on the few opportunities I get to spend quality time with them, especially with the new rosters that have been proposed – one had no weekend off for 27 weeks in a row, as well as the proviso that shifts can be changed as little as 24 hours in advance, including rest days. We can’t live like that.
So it’s about safety, then it’s about work/life balance, and then the question of pay arises, which I’ll address in the next question.
How do you think that the media is portraying the strike?
The mainstream media is focusing on the pay element. The only reason that’s even involved in this is because TfL refused to listen to night tube concerns as a separate issue to pay and insisted on lumping them together, which has given the press what they need to play the greed card and try to dissuade the public from supporting us. If it was about pay, what can be seen as an acceptable offer would have been properly presented and considered by the unions, not hastily brought up on the last day of talks before the strike after months of negotiation, with a time limit of just a few hours to accept it before it was withdrawn.
It’s not about pay despite what the press would have you believe, but it does look like it’s being set up so TfL can stop night tube going ahead (arguably a vanity project for the mayor) and blame the unions. We’ve said clearly all along that we support night tube, as long as its implementation is fair and safe.
Do you believe attitudes of anger to be unjustified?
Of course people are going to be angry at being inconvenienced, but so are we. We’ll be hugely inconvenienced by the new terms and that affects us for the rest of our working life, not just the 24 hours of the strike. Be angry, yes, but join us in our anger and direct it at the right people – Boris and the executives at TfL.
Also, whilst the internet has been full of people calling us everything under the sun, actually being out there on the picket told a different story. Hundreds of members of the public passing by offered their support and understanding.
A lot of comparison has been made to doctors, especially one statement claiming that drivers are earning more than a doctor at 5 years (50k vs. 45k) what are your thoughts on this?
Drivers earn 50k, but station staff earn 30k and as the cost of London living creeps up it becomes more and more difficult to live on that wage. It is more than several other industries that serve London, which shows the value of trade unions and being able to fight for a level of pay that we deserve, something the government hate and are trying to stifle. Train drivers aren’t overpaid, but lots of other industries are seriously underpaying staff. Doctors deserve a higher wage, absolutely. That doesn’t mean tube staff don’t. Its not a race to the bottom, we should all be standing together and fighting for everyone to be paid well and treated fairly by their employers.