Engineering Works Cancelled And Safety Fears Raised In Run Up To Tube Lines Pension Strike

A NEW wave of tube strike action and overtime bans has led to the cancellation of tens of millions of pounds worth of essential engineering works on the Northern Line this weekend and has raised new safety fears as the Emergency Response Unit join with fellow Tube Lines staff in support of a long-running dispute over pensions and benefits justice.

The action will take place as follows:

Tube Lines members are instructed not to book on for any turns of duty that commence between: -

0600 hours Thursday 1st November 2012 until 05.59 Friday 2nd November 2012.

Also members are instructed to refuse to work any over time from

0600 hours Thursday 1st November 2012 until 05.59 hours Monday 5th November 2012.

The facts behind the dispute – which is simply about a fair deal for all tube workers – are straightforward.

When Tube Lines was created as part of Public Private Partnership in 2003, Tube Lines closed its section of the TfL Pension Fund to new employees and opened up an inferior “Defined Contribution” (DC) pension scheme in its place. Over the years the numbers of “protected” Tube Lines employees that remained in the Tube Lines section of the TfLPF has dwindled due to the normal routine of retirements. Consequently this has meant that the majority of Tube Lines employees are either in the inferior DC scheme or have no pension provision.

RMT has been pressing management ever since 2003 to reopen the Tube Lines section to those employees in the DC scheme and to those not presently saving for their retirement but management have continued to refuse this request.

TfLPF rules allow staff who are TUPE transferred into TfL, or from a company that becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of TfL, to join the scheme. However, this rule was suspended in 2010 and RMT has been campaigning to have this decision reversed. As a result of the pressure put on management by the RMT, TfL issued a letter saying that this suspension could be reconsidered in the event of major developments.

Tube Lines has since been bought out by TfL and in the view of RMT that is a major development which should allow employees working for Tube Lines to be automatically allowed to join the TfLPF in line with the Trust Deed and Rules of the scheme. Therefore Tube Lines management should have the authority to enrol employees into the fund. Parity would also bring staff free travel within London and 75% of the cost of travel on the mainline railways presently enjoyed by other TfL employees.

After months of discussion between management and the RMT a satisfactory conclusion has not been reached and as a consequence a further wave of industrial action has been confirmed.

Tube Lines staff are responsible for both maintenance and upgrade work on the Jubilee line, Northern line and Piccadilly line. They also provide a number of services across the network including the Emergency Response Unit (ERU), Distribution Services and Trans Plant meaning that the action by staff, which has already led to cancellation of major works on the Northern Lines this weekend, will have a serious and widespread impact across the system as well as raising serious safety concerns if management attempt to run services without proper emergency cover. In light of the Central Line chaos today RMT reps will be closely monitoring the safety environment.

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said:

“RMT members have delivered a massive mandate and rock-solid action following a straightforward demand for parity with other Tube staff. This dispute is about justice and about ensuring that all groups of staff under the umbrella of London Underground receive the same rights and benefits and our members have no choice but to strike to secure those basic rights.”

“We have gone through all the negotiating channels but Tube Lines has refused to budge and have refused to engage in meaningful talks and that pig-headed approach has raised the temperature on the shop floor and has resulted in this latest strike action and overtime ban being called.

“Former Metronet employees have been allowed back into the TfL Pension Fund (TfLPF) and now also have the same travel facilities as other LUL employees.

“Tube Lines is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Transport for London and there is simply no excuse for refusing to give equal pension and pass rights.

“The union remains ready to talk, and the strong mandate for this industrial action and the strength of feeling amongst our members shows Tube Lines and TfL the depth of anger there is over this blatant lack of fairness and justice.”