Spare a thought for London Underground staff today

On the day of the last tube strike, I wrote that, unusually for me, I had some sympathy with what the unions were saying:

Let’s think about this a little. How would you feel if you were used to working a certain pattern of hours and your employer then told you that you would have to start working round the clock? (Party staff, please don’t answer that. I know you all work pretty much round the clock anyway.) You may have other responsibilities or require additional childcare and incur extra costs if you have to change to a different shift pattern.

There is a view I’ve seen articulated in a number of places that tube drivers earn £50,000 a year and should just get on with it. Actually, I don’t hold with that. I tend to value the people who provide services to me. Every time I step on a tube train, I’m relying on the drivers to keep me safe therefore I feel that I have some obligation to support them having decent pay and working conditions. It seems that the management has been less than effective at doing what they are paid to do – manage the change in the organisation.

I still feel that way, more so,  in fact.  Have a read of this very practical account of what the proposed changes to shift patterns will mean, written by a ticket officer. 

The changes London Underground Ltd wants won’t mean me working more hours, but they will alter my shift patterns, making me work more unsocial hours to cover the new all-night shifts, some of which would be 12 hours long.

Along with many others, I’m being reclassified as a ‘supervisor’. That basically means the new night shifts will be compulsory and non-negotiable, and many of us will have to do solo staffing of stations as staff are stretched out to cover.

My wife and I have two boys and a girl, aged 15, 12 and 4. Between us, we’ve worked out a pattern that lets me be home to look after the kids, whilst my wife works evenings from 5pm to 9pm. It often feels that my wife and I don’t see enough of each other, but we need the two incomes.

This will only get worse under the new terms. I can take my eldest son to RAF cadets, and my daughter to her karate class in the evenings, but the new days I have to work could put paid to that. Our childcare costs will go up too, and evening childcare is especially expensive.

My colleagues and I are worried about safety, and what it’ll mean for the tube service itself. Depending on rotas, we may have to work 7 shifts in a week, and only be guaranteed a 12 hour gap between an all-night shift and our next shift. If I’m the only one at the station, that responsibility is worrying if I’ll be tired – what if someone’s taken ill on the platform, or a drunken disturbance, if I’m tired-out and working a station alone? I’m also likely to see more verbal or physical abuse on all-night services, which is a big concern.

We have known for some time that working night shift isn’t good for you. The TUC has this week published a report that shows the risks to physical and emotional health that night workers face. If someone has signed up to work certain hours, it doesn’t seem right that they can be forced into a different shift pattern that doesn’t work for them. As I understand it, tube staff could also be asked to come into work at very short notice which isn’t fair. People need to know in good time when they will be expected to work.

As I concluded the last time, if workers were involved in the decision making process from the outset, and had real power in the organisation, the process of change would be a lot easier.

The liberal approach would be to have some organisational model that gives staff real power and esteem. We’ve always been on about workplace democracy and maybe we should be looking in more detail about how this could be done across our public services.

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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89 Comments

  • David Faggiani 6th Aug '15 - 3:03pm

    Here, here.

  • David Faggiani 6th Aug '15 - 3:03pm

    Or is it ‘hear, hear’? I’ve never known that….

  • Is that a tiny violin I can hear accompanying the sob story of the century?

  • Some of the lines such as the Victoria line are already automated so the tube drivers only job is to open and close the doors. Their main purpose is actually in case the tube breaks down and passengers need to be led out through the tunnels. This doesn’t seem to justify a £50k salary or anything like it so I retain my view that these strikes are totally unjustified. If recruitment for these jobs was open to the public no doubt there would be a queue of people willing to work the suggested hours for such a high salary, me included.

  • Good post, Caron. I especially agree with your points about the lack of consultation and the long term health effects of prolonged night work. I heard an interview yesterday with a divorced father employed on the underground. I’m long in the tooth enough to recognise sincerity when I hear it. The new Boris Johnson inspired contract means the guy will only be able to see his son on four Saturdays in the next twelve months……….. and I believe the guy.

    Of course Boris is grandstanding and looking for a fight. It’s all part of his leadership campaign post EU referendum – just like his biography of Churchill was. Eddie Mair got it right when he said to Johnson “you’re a nasty piece of work”‘ – watch the interview on you tube.

    As to Dav…. violin, approprate storage, and the sun not shining come to mind

  • If the new conditions are unacceptable, then quit. I’m sure there are many others who could do these jobs who would jump at the chance, even under the new conditions…

    … oh, except they can’t, can they, because it’s a closed shop.

  • Steve Comer 6th Aug '15 - 4:43pm

    Dav: There is no such thing as a ‘closed shop’ these days, and I expect you know that.
    Nobody is saying things will not have to change, nobody is arguing that you should not run tube services over night, it is all about how you go about these things. It is about you get changes in and take people with you.

    Change has to be negotiated, and yes it should come at a cost when it means you are expecting people to work more anti-social hours. There is too much of a ‘macho management’ culture in the UK, and I’m afraid your postings show you up as a supporter of a Britain where the Spivs in the City of London get richer and richer while those who keep essential services running for them get a raw deal. That may be Osborne’s vision of the future its not one that Liberals should ever support.

  • There is no such thing as a ‘closed shop’ these days, and I expect you know that.

    Then why can’t I apply to be a tube driver?

  • I have no sympathy at all for tube drivers. Spare a thought instead for the nurses, the police officers, the factory workers, and cleaning staff who work shifts including nights for a fraction of the money or recognition. A small grain of sympathy for the station staff – but it’s still a good job and if it’s that big a deal for the tube to catch up with transport systems across the world, then other jobs are available – and I can’t imagine there will be a shortage of applicants.

    The sooner we get to driverless tube trains the better.

  • John Tilley 6th Aug '15 - 5:39pm

    Here in the London Borough where I Iive many people commute to work in central London.
    The impact of a strike on the Tube is perhaps of less concern to us than you might imagine ifbyou do not know London. This is because like others south of the river we do not have a Tube.
    We pay for it through the Boris the Buffoon taxes but there is not one single tube station or tube line anywhere in this borough.

    Odd you might think, that in recent years Mayor Boris along with the government has spent £ Billions on Railcross and a fantastic brand new tunnel which will transport millions of people as long as they are happy to keep to the north of the river where they already have 90% of the exising Tube services.

    So the absence of a night tube service might be considered of less interest to those of us down here in the forgotten boroughs south of the river.
    Until you realise that part of the plan to provide a night tube service might actually include the withdrawal of night buses. At the moment we do have a night bus service.

    When you take these facts into account along with those facts included in Caron’s article you might conclude that there are some holes in the transport planning and strategy of Boris the Mayor (aka Boris the MP for Uxbridge, aka the extremely well remunerated columnist for The Daily Telegraph).

    The payments made to Boris each year from his three jobs now total enough to pay for around ten tube train drivers.

    If you add on the payments he made to buy secondhand German water cannon which the Home Secretary has banned you could afford to pay for a lot more tube train drivers.

    I think I would value a lot more tube train drivers much more highly than one publicity-seeking Buffoon even though I have to travel to Richmond or to Wimbledon to access the nearest tube Station.

    There is more to this strike than meets the eye or than is presented in The Daily Telegraph, which pays so uh every year to Boris Johnson might not be considered entirely objective.

    We should support the tube drivers, they have a legitimate case.

  • Your final paragraph tells us absolutely nothing about how you would do this. It’s easy to make such statements. Give us a step by step breakdown of how you would have handled the process.

  • Richard Underhill 6th Aug '15 - 6:08pm

    Bus drivers’ jobs are at least as difficult as tube drivers but are paid less. Tube drivers have a strong union, but the real reason is the combination of the rails and the congestion in London.

  • “written by someone without the luxury of living 400 miles away”

    Well, to quote our friend Dav – he says if tube workers don’t like it they should quit – then…… by the same logic….if folks in London don’t like it why not quit and move 400 miles away ???????????? It’s quite civilised north of the border….. and they don’t eat the English by putting them in a deep fried Mars bar.

  • This nonsense about the Tube driver’s job being “difficult” is actually very insulting to us millions of ordinary people who all do “difficult” jobs that don’t earn anything like £50k. Cut it out.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 7th Aug '15 - 12:33am

    I guess I’m a bit shocked that liberals are not appreciating the human and practical sides to this. Managing change always has to be done sensitively and LU, TFL and Boris have made a right pig’s ear of it. You get the best out of people if you treat the well.

    And the article I quoted wasn’t written by a tube driver, it was written by a member of station staff who, I suspect, doesn’t get paid nearly as much as a driver and who finds himself in a really difficult situation with changing work patterns having a significant impact on his family life.

  • ‘I guess I’m shocked that liberals’

    What’s getting into the modern world where services respond to public demand got to do with being a ‘liberal’.

    Clearly you don’t care that the thousands of other night workers (not earning anything close to £ 50,000) might actually have more lower cost and convenient transport options to get home when they have finished their work ,like um er Nurses?

  • The evening childcare that the staff member says is expensive, that will be the same childcare that other workers have to pay more for because their hours away from the home are extended by the Tube’s current hours. Every time they strike they are getting one step closer to being automated.

  • John Tilley 7th Aug '15 - 7:03am

    To blame the people who work on the tube rather than the people who take the decisions and are supposed to be in charge is an interesting approach.

    What next?
    Do we blame the children now locked out of premises by Kids Company for gross mismanagement?
    Or maybe we should blame ordinary people with bank accounts for fiddling the Libor rate?

    If there are problems with the tube then we should pin the tail on the Tory Donkey!
    Boris Johnson has been “in charge” for the last seven years, not the unions, not the train drivers.

    He will be delighted that some people have fallen for his propaganda of “blame it on the unions”. His successor as Tory candidate for London Mayor will not be able to believe his luck if Liberal Democrats start repeating the propaganda and roll out the old myths of fantastically wealthy train drivers.

    A simple question to those who attack the train drivers — if the job is so well paid, how many bank workers from the City of London have abandonned their pin-stripes and champagne lunches and applied for a job driving a tube train?

    Boris Johnson likes taking on extra jobs – do you imagine he will be driving a train through the night anytime soon?

  • Also, in my experience, consulation is only done when an organisation has already decided what to do. Thats the kind of consultation that happened when my council decided to make schools bigger rather than building a new one. Thats the kind of consultation that happened when my work was shut down and everyone was laid off. So what kind of consultation does Caron expect in this case? There is massive demand for the tube to be open longer. There are 1000s of people willing to take tube driver and station attendant jobs if they are offered. This action is naked self interest, and there is nothing wrong with that, the previous success of the Union is why drivers are paid out of proportion with their technical skills or the hardship of their work. But it would be nice if there was a bit of honesty going on. The strikers are really more than happy to work different hours as long as they get paid more.

  • Sorry to hear Caron is disappointed with the views of some posters on here. I happen to agree with her and with John Tilley.

    What it proves to me is either some of the anti posters on here aren’t Liberals – or if they are – they are members of the ‘small state Orange Book’ tendency. The particular moan is that drivers get £ 50,000 a year pay (in fact this is senior pay after many years of training – most undergound worksers are on less than half of this).

    It seems to me that the small state free marketeers show a surprising ignorance of market forces. There’s no such thing as an overpaid worker in a capitalist society. It’s just what the market decides people are worth. Tube drivers have something almost everybody in London wants, are difficult to replace and are well-organised.

    So, fine, if you think the future of human society is a commune where everyone shares everything, or support a cap in executive pay, then it’s perfectly respectable to say that Tube drivers are overpaid. It’s odd how many of the folk in Boris’s Daily Telegraph kingdom think Tube drivers are overpaid – but they don’t think bankers are overpaid or that taxes on the globally-mobile super-rich are too low.

    Frankly, if you think Tube drivers are “overpaid”, you don’t understand how unfettered capitalism works.

  • I dont use the Tube more than once or twice a year, so I dont see how my support for Tube hours being extended can be construed as selfish. There isnt a market system, the Union has choked off job applicants for driving positions. If you think that is Liberal or liberal then please explain how.

  • Laura Gordon 7th Aug '15 - 9:21am

    I live part of the time in London and don’t use the tube (bike, bus both take longer but aren’t hellish like the tube).

    My view: this time, the tube drivers have a ghost of a valid complaint. But it’s hard to argue that someone on £50k a year with 48 days paid holiday is underpaid, and when you go on strike in support of a colleague’s right to be drunk at work (that was the last one), you lose all credibility.

    In contrast, when the bus drivers went on strike I was genuinely sympathetic – they’re not paid well at all and have to put up with levels of abuse and risk of violence that are far beyond those for tube drivers.

    Also, got to say I resent being lectured on a London issue by someone who lives in Scotland.

  • if the job is so well paid, how many bank workers from the City of London have abandonned their pin-stripes and champagne lunches and applied for a job driving a tube train?

    Maybe loads of them would like to but they are not allowed, because the RMT won’t let vacancies be advertised externally.

    Tube drivers have something almost everybody in London wants, are difficult to replace and are well-organised

    They’re not difficult to replace at all. It’s a job pretty much anyone could do with just a few months’ training.

    If the tube could fire the lot of ’em, then recruit on the open market rather than only from among existing staff, then you’d get a true picture of how much the job is worth.

  • Phil Rimmer 7th Aug '15 - 9:29am

    Can I raise a practical point which has not been mentioned so far and which should be of interest to anyone interested in getting on a night Tube? The employers appear to be taking the line that EVERYONE is capable of working nights. My father spent more than 20 years of his working life doing the night shift in a heavy industry factory, my mother also spent many years working the night shift as a nurse. They liked it, suffered no ill effects and passed this ability on to myself and my brother.

    However, very many people who try to work nights, either exclusively or as part of a shift pattern, end up suffering from disturbed sleep patterns, the effects of which can be severe. Others are quiet simply unable to stay awake all night and are a danger to themselves and others.

    Working nights is not ‘normal’ and I am very surprised that the Unions and the employers seem happy for the issue to be debated as if it were. Some of you may be happy to take a Tube job from someone unwilling to work nights. Just remember that some of them, and some of you, will be unable to do that safely. The idea that everyone can work nights is stupid and dangerous.

  • The idea that everyone can work nights is stupid and dangerous

    Which makes it even more important, doesn’t it, that recruitment is opened up to external candidates, so that those who are unable to work nights safely can be let go and replaced by those who can, drawing from a wider pool?

  • This dispute is really just a sideshow to the gross mismanagement of the tube over many years. Bonkers Johnson sees fights with the unions as an opportunity to isolate the knee jerk Labour opponents and the unions fall into the trap of opposing all changes.

    The real issue is why we still have a tube system so dependent on a large workforce. Anyone who has been to Copenhagen will have seen a 24 hour driverless, automated tube system running efficiently. Even older, bigger systems like Paris and Rome have some driverless lines (and the DLT in London shows what is possible even if it has been compromised by using guards unnecessarily).

    The real issue is what Bonkers (and other London politicians) are doing to take the London tube system into the 20th (never mind the 21st) century.

  • tpfkar 6th Aug ’15 – 5:06pm …………I have no sympathy at all for tube drivers. Spare a thought instead for the nurses, the police officers, the factory workers, and cleaning staff who work shifts including nights for a fraction of the money or recognition……..

    I despair when I read such comments. Let’s all join the Tories in the cheering the ‘race to the bottom’….

  • tpfkar 6th Aug ’15 – 5:06pm ………”…I have no sympathy at all for tube drivers. Spare a thought instead for the nurses, the police officers, the factory workers, and cleaning staff who work shifts including nights for a fraction of the money or recognition……..”

    Why not instead call for high wages, recognition, equal employment rights and protection for those professions too? The tube drivers union’s success in negotiating for their members should be a model for other public sector staff.

    It’s not that successive governments have not been able to afford to pay nurses et al a decent wage. It’s just that they choose not to.

  • Caron LindsayCaron Lindsay 7th Aug ’15 – 12:33am
    “I guess I’m a bit shocked that liberals are not appreciating the human and practical sides to this. Managing change always has to be done sensitively and LU, TFL and Boris have made a right pig’s ear of it. You get the best out of people if you treat the well.

    And the article I quoted wasn’t written by a tube driver, it was written by a member of station staff who, I suspect, doesn’t get paid nearly as much as a driver and who finds himself in a really difficult situation with changing work patterns having a significant impact on his family life.”

    I agree. Instead of criticising the train drivers for standing up for their rights, why don’t some of you say what you would do if your employer suddenly said you had to work nights? I know I wouldn’t like it. And if I remember correctly, tube drivers et al already suffer a diminished family life? To add insult, not only would you have to work nights but also there was to be no enumeration for this. I’d be hopping mad. And if I had a union strong enough to negotiate for me, I’d be very relieved. Why are people castigating the Union and their members for standing up for themselves against exploitation? Why not argue that *all* workers, not just tube drivers, should have strong representation?

  • Simon Shaw 7th Aug ’15 – 10:29am …Instead of trying to score silly points you might consider that supporting the idea of improving the lot of nurses, cleaning staff, etc. is a Liberal ideal….

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Aug '15 - 11:09am

    kevin

    Clearly you don’t care that the thousands of other night workers (not earning anything close to £ 50,000) might actually have more lower cost and convenient transport options to get home when they have finished their work ,like um er Nurses?

    That was not the point of the article. The point was that people who have taken on this career may be forced into working to a different pattern which would be very disruptive for example if they had children. They did not make the choice to do that because this pattern was not there when they started their career. If the line you use to them is “Well, if you don’t like it, resign and get another job”, as you say other jobs pay less and someone who resigns like this is most likely going to have to start again at the bottom of the pile and so suffer a very significant drop in income (if they can find another job at all). If, like most people, their mortgages and so on are based on their current income, they just can’t afford to do that.

    Isn’t liberalism supposed to be about freedom, so isn’t people being forced to make radical changes in this way something we should be concerned about? Or do you, most most right-wingers, have a very limited view of freedom i.e. one which is based only on freedom as the very rich see it?

    Liberals also believe in free speech, democracy, and making decisions after hearing both sides of the case. So surely any true liberal would welcome the other side of the case being explained. Media coverage of this issue has been so one-sided, so hardly anyone is aware of what the underground workers’ view on this is.

  • The unions here are doing what unions should do – seeking to preserve or improve the pay and conditions of their members.

    The problems here are twofold: that this union’s management has spent its goodwill capital making political points over the years, and that driving jobs are not open to alternative applicants.

    Really this issue should be settled by negotiation. As I understand it new working terms and conditions cannot be forced on existing employees without consultation and negotiation. A sensible solution would be to preserve existing Ts and Cs for thos eunable to change, and recruit new drivers to work the extended hours who are subject to new Ts and Cs. What is the block to this happening?

  • wouldn’t it be good if we found ways to improve the lot of people worse off than tube drivers

    Ways like maybe running the tube all night?

  • @Simon Shaw

    It’s NOT about the money it’s about the hours – e.g. one weekend off every nine weeks. Highlighting drivers’ pay is a red herring. EVERY underground employee is affected by the nature of this dispute. The vast majority are on an average of less than £ 25,000 per annum.

    But…. on the money….., I happen to know a modest two bedroom privately rented flat in Herne Hill costs £ 2,000 per month (more than the net pay of someone earning £ 25,000 pa) and there has been a massive decline in social housing in London. I don’t begrudge a tube driver £ 49,763 gross given that he/she sits in a solitary box mostly in the dark for several hours a day or night with few weekends off facing the possibility of encountering one of the 64 suicides on the line per year. (info on a freedom of information request).

    On the daft business of being lectured from Scotland – that cuts both ways. The evidence and effects of that in May is there for all to see.

  • Sara Scarlett 7th Aug ’15 – 11:46am ………………In comparison to a night bus driver on £20k who deals with the drunks, the abusers and the rest of it, this must sound like a breeze……..

    To some here, Improving the lot of the bus driver by increasing his salary, takes second place to reducing the tube driver to £20k

  • To some here, Improving the lot of the bus driver by increasing his salary, takes second place to reducing the tube driver to £20k

    It’s more that the pay of the tube driver, and the bus driver, for that matter, should be set at the level where enough people of sufficient ability are willing to put up with the working conditions and do it. That’s how the market works.

    That is not currently the case with tube drivers due to the ban on external recruitment which creates an effectively closed shop.

    It’s possible that, if the external recruitment ban is lifted, and the new working conditions come in, people will find them unacceptable and it will become difficult to retain staff unless the pay is raised or the conditions are changed. Therefore the conditions will change or the pay will rise.

    In that way the correct, market-efficient wage for the position will but found.

    But this can only work if recruitment is a level playing field. It can’t operate if the game is fixed, as it is at the moment, and that’s the problem.

  • How would the carpers feel if they were suddenly told by their bosses, ” We’ve decided to cut your annual leave entitlements from 28 days to 10, and 5 of those must be taken when we specify. If you don’t like it, the Job Centre can send us plenty of people to replace you”?

    I’d say, ‘Fine,’ hand in my notice, get another job, and enjoy watching them go bust as they failed to replace me.

  • If, however, we are talking about remuneration, then asking “how we get other workers rewarded similarly” is clearly economically illiterate

    A quick way of realising this is pondering what might happen to prices if you suddenly multiplied everybody’s wages by ten.

  • Simon Shaw 7th Aug ’15 – 12:38pm

    @expats
    “Instead of trying to score silly points you might consider that supporting the idea of improving the lot of nurses, cleaning staff, etc. is a Liberal ideal… “

    But why is it a “silly point”? Of course “improving the lot” of employees can involve non-pay aspects of work, and I’m all for that. If, however, we are talking about remuneration, then asking “how we get other workers rewarded similarly” is clearly economically illiterate……

    Inverted commas usually denote a direct quote…Who has said that?… Creating a strawman doesn’t help the debate.

    Constantly using ‘driver’s salaries’ to distort the cause of the strike is unworthy of LibDems…

  • John Tilley 7th Aug '15 - 1:12pm

    Matthew Huntbach 7th Aug ’15 – 11:09am
    “…Isn’t liberalism supposed to be about freedom, so isn’t people being forced to make radical changes in this way something we should be concerned about? Or do you, most most right-wingers, have a very limited view of freedom i.e. one which is based only on freedom as the very rich see it?”

    This would certaly seem to be the case.

    Mind you it impossible that people are making comments from a position of complete ignorance of pay rates and the real world but feel the need to make insulting comments about a whole group of working people whose main crime seems to be that they do not subsist poverty wages.

    The logic of that approach would seem to be that all wages and conditions of service should be screwed down as far as possible and that working people should be forced to suffer completely unexpected changes to their contract of employment at the whim of their employer or what someone who knows nothing decides is “the market rate”.

    Dav for example thinks you can resign as a tube driver working for London Underground and go and get a job with one of the other underground companies with a tube system across London. Anything wrong with his theory?

    Or maybe he is suggesting that under the free market you set up your own underground service go to a bank and borrow the money to dig you own tunnels and buy your own trains to run through these new tunnels to your own new stations that you are of course perfectly free to build throughout London.
    That is the free market way after all.
    And what is wrong with that theory?

  • Dav 7th Aug ’15 – 12:20pm…… To some here, Improving the lot of the bus driver by increasing his salary, takes second place to reducing the tube driver to £20k……It’s more that the pay of the tube driver, and the bus driver, for that matter, should be set at the level where enough people of sufficient ability are willing to put up with the working conditions and do it. That’s how the market works…….

    “That’s how the market works!” So the most desperate take the job for the lowest wages?…The mindset of the 19th century Mill owner….
    For the last few years I’ve believed that my idea of Liberal values were in abeyance;; reading your posts makes me realise that, for some, they never existed…

  • @ Simon Shaw

    Keep digging Simon…… angels on the head of a pin n’all.

    I was correct to say tube drivers being paid £50,000 pa was misleading, Tube drivers are ‘senior appointments’ in the Tfl system and promoted from within – often after many years service. They do get six months driver training directly on appointment – but this follows systems training within Tfl at previous employment levels. Don’t diminish drivers systems knowledge ………… remember 7/7 and what that entailed.

    As for Sarah Scarlett’s bus drivers….. of course they should be better paid. Their predicament is based on the Tory fragmentation of the system into eighteen different companies – starting a race to the bottom in wages.

    Coping with drunks – yes – agreed. To be fair to Johnson he did ban drink on the underground. It should be extended to the entire railways system where boozy passengers (sorry, customers) are a menace. They express their freedom of choice by curtailing the freedom of others to a peaceful life especially on match days. No doubt the privatised railway carriers would oppose it if it cut profits by selling alcohol.

    The issue of alcohol is another debate…….still disappointed the party failed to press for a minimum price policy when in Coalition…. though I think I know why.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 7th Aug '15 - 3:07pm

    Dav, where do you get the idea that it’s the unions that have created the restriction on direct recruiting of drivers? That’s a management decision. If you wish to become a tube driver, do what they all did, start at the bottom on the platform and work your way up. I wish you luck.

  • Dav for example thinks you can resign as a tube driver working for London Underground and go and get a job with one of the other underground companies with a tube system across London

    Or you could get a job in some other industry doing something else that, like being a tube driver, only requires a few months’ training.

    That’s how the free market in labour works. You don’t have to do the same thing all your life. If the conditions of the thing you’re currently doing change so you no longer wish to do it, go and do something else with better conditions, if you can find it (if you can’t, then you’re clearly not worth as much as you thoguht you were, are you?).

    If you wish to become a tube driver, do what they all did, start at the bottom on the platform and work your way up

    Why should I? It only takes a few months’ training, from what I gather, to become a tube driver. Is this some mad idea that you have to ‘pay your dues’ doing some crappy job even if you are perfectly capable of doing the job you actually wanted straight away?

  • John Tilley 7th Aug '15 - 4:08pm

    “…That’s how the free market in labour works. You don’t have to do the same thing all your life. If the conditions of the thing you’re currently doing change so you no longer wish to do it, go and do something else with better conditions…”

    Yes of course, Dav.
    If you have been a train driver for twenty years and you are suddenly told to work nights and hire people to look after your children instead of seeing them yourself you can always resign and become one of these jobs —

    Metropolitan Police Commissioner. £260,088 a year. Some night work involving wearing a bow tie at receptions.
    Chief of the Defence Staff. £249,934 a year You are seldom asked to go into the trenches after dark.
    President of the Supreme Court. £218,270. No night shifts as far as anyone is aware.

    These three jobs are all based in London, in the public sector – so of course are all directly comparable with employees of London Underground. Because that’s the way the free market in labour works on planet Dav.

    So no holes in that theory, Dav.

  • well, the market rate for an MP is clearly less than £75k (since plenty of people evidently want to be one), so lets sort that one out… or see if they would rather be a tube driver on £50k….

    I suspect there are actually plenty of very competent people willing to be bankers for < £5 million as well

    But market forces don't apply in the closed shops of the rich….

  • Does anyone here realise how hard traders in The City work? You all know they mostly work 50-60 hours weeks right? So when City traders started moaning that they dont get enough money, instead of pointing out the absurdity of their claims, the “liberal” response is to agree with them and say that the real problem is that everyone else isnt also earning £100k?

    And in this liberal future, where we’re all earning £50k or maybe even £100k, do you really think that Tube drivers and city dealers wouldnt have ensured the pay differentials are maintained? Would Tube drivers and City traders really just sit silently while cleaners and bus drives suddenly start getting paid the same as them? Obviously not. But it does make a convenient straw man for defenders of this strike.

  • nvelope2003 7th Aug '15 - 5:22pm

    This has all got rather silly. Clearly TfL has realised that running tubes all night is going to cost far more than they bargained for and Boris is making sure the unions get the blame for cancelling it. This change will have to wait until the tube is fully automated and in the meantime we will have to make do with the very comprehensive night bus network which at least gets you to near where you live in many cases. Neither Tokyo or Paris has a night tube.

    I do know something about working conditions on the Underground. I would not get too teary if I were you but I guess for a middle class layabout getting £100,000 for not doing much £50,000 does not seem much for a hard day’s night.

  • John Tilley 7th Aug '15 - 5:30pm

    People who are outraged by the fact that tube drivers have riches beyond their wildest dreams may have seen Alan Yentob interviewed on Ch4 News last night.
    He was defending Kid Company apparently. Although the words own and goal came to mind.

    Onerous “night work” is all part of Mr Yentob’s jobs with the BBC for which he is said to pocket £330,000 a year.

    Quite obviously he is more than six times more valuable to society than a tube train driver.

    The free market demands that Mr Yentob has such a high salary because under the laws of supply and demand it is quite clear that there is nobody anywhere in the world sufficiently well qualified to swan around the BBC being very important for such a meagre sum.

    John Hemming (our excellent former MP) raised this recently —
    http://www.tvlicenceresistance.info/330000-for-working-part-time-huge-salary-of-bbc-boss-alan-yentob-who-patronised-the-working-class/

  • @Simon Shaw is back

    Don’t worry everyone. He was wrong about the Lib Dem’s prospects in the election and he’s wrong about this. He will pontificate until the cows come home. He lives in the Lib Dem bubble and cannot and will not accept any argument that is different to his opinion.

  • nvelope2003 7th Aug '15 - 9:09pm

    Many people were attracted to Liberalism because they thought it was open to different ideas and its supporters would adopt pragmatic solutions to problems not ones dictated by an ideology. It seems most of those who post on this site have just accepted the conventional wisdom of the age and this may not necessarily give the answers we need. Those who think we should adopt the solutions favoured in Venezuela for example might like to live there for a while before they try to implement it here but I guess they would be the ones who got the favoured positions in their dream society.

  • John Tilley 8th Aug '15 - 7:51am

    Simon Shaw 8th Aug ’15 – 12:46am
    “….Are you saying that any of those above three jobs can be done with 6 months’ training. If not, what exactly is your point?”

    Simon, do keep up with the discussion. I know it is noisy on this train but you must try and concentrate. 🙂

    One of the complaints earlier in this thread was that it was not possible to apply for and get a job as a train driver on the London Underground at a moment’s notice. To be able to qualify to begin the training you need to have done some years working on other jobs for London Underground.

    In the light of a train driver’s responsibilities when there is a crisis underground (terrorism attack, Kings Cross type fire, or one of the regular stoppages which keep passengers stranded in unlit tunnels sometimes for an hour or more) I think the years of working stations, in tunnels etc before becoming a driver might actually be quite important, don’t you?

    You may deal with things differently in Southport, but here in London some of us like the idea that when there is a crisis underground there is someone on the train who is part of a team, has done the jobs of other members of the team and has the kowledge and backgrond to exercise the duties and responsibilities to passengers which extend beyond what a robotic train is capable of.

    In the same way that you need to do some years in The Met before becoming a senior police officer you need to do some years with London Underground before taking on the responsibility of hundreds of passengers in life-threatening situations.

    You may not remember the Kings Cross fire, it was a long time ago now, but it was not the Commissioner of Police or the Chief of the Defence Staff that were leading passengers through smoke-filled tunnels to save their lives — it was those much despised Underground workers.

    I hope that explains my point? If you have any further questions, please ask. I will do my best to answer.

  • @John Tilley
    “The free market demands that Mr Yentob has such a high salary because under the laws of supply and demand it is quite clear that there is nobody anywhere in the world sufficiently well qualified to swan around the BBC being very important for such a meagre sum.”

    On the day the new Premier League season starts, I can think of a few hundred better examples of people paid vastly more than tube drivers for doing a less useful job.

    The website you link to is informative mainly for revealing the racism and anti-Semitism that appears to motivate some anti-BBC types.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 8th Aug '15 - 10:49am

    Dav, you were making the claim that it was the unions that were stopping you applying directly for a job as a driver, I’m pointing out that the unions have no say in that decision so you need to target your anger at the management. The underground have always insisted that anyone joining has to start at the bottom so why should you be any different?

  • Just seen how this thread has developed and a few further thoughts to respond to the likes of expats who’ve criticised my earlier comment:

    1-Why do we have well-paid jobs? High skill levels, low supply, effective unions, lack of competition. Hard not to admire tube drivers who hit all of these (unlike nurses) but surely fair to have less sympathy when they plead hardship?

    2- is it really illiberal to see this from the side of the millions who would benefit from the services? Sara Scarlett’s comments on night buses are well-made, and there’s an argument about public safety as well as increasing opportunity by providing better transport through the night.

    3- I just don’t see how my comment could be interpreted as calling for pay cuts and a ‘race to the bottom’ (possibly the most irritating political buzz-phrase ever) if we want to come out and call for pay rises for the low paid then great – how do we afford this and how would we pay for this?

    4- Comments that I’m not seeing the human and practical side are probably fairer, but there are millions of people who face these same challenges every day, and manage family life around shift work. Surely there is a genuine debate to be had around this, and complaints about having to work hours which make family life difficult have to be set against the context of so many where this is already the case?

    5 – what is our policy on transport accessibility overall? If we are set against a new runway in the SE, and rebalancing to the rest of the country, won’t we need longer hours in many other areas so it’s easier to travel to other airports. Do we need night trains nationally? And how can we learn from this about how to implement without so much unrest?

  • Tpfkar 8th Aug ’15 – 10:57am………………Just seen how this thread has developed and a few further thoughts to respond to the likes of expats who’ve criticised my earlier comment:….
    1-Why do we have well-paid jobs? High skill levels, low supply, effective unions, lack of competition. Hard not to admire tube drivers who hit all of these (unlike nurses) but surely fair to have less sympathy when they plead hardship……………………

    A more balanced post but may I remind you that I was responding to your, “I have no sympathy at all for tube drivers”…..

  • nvelope2003 8th Aug '15 - 12:36pm

    In order to pay for some all night tube trains on certain routes some night buses are to be cut. Is this fair to the many who rely on them ?
    Some tube drivers already work at night to drive the maintenance trains. As this will not be possible when passenger trains are operating it will be necessary to close the tube during the day when roads are really very congested to carry out essential repairs and maintenance. Although this already occurs to some extent it will increase. At night buses can operate without being badly affected by road congestion. Who cares about practicalities these days ? No one apparently.

  • Shirley Campbell 10th Aug '15 - 8:15am

    I apologise for posting on a so-called Liberal Party website when I am a Liberal, through and through, with nowhere to go.

    I well remember the tube strike of 1989. I well remember walking from Fenchurch Street to the Marble Arch and back again after doing a full day’s work. Well, nothing changes! Actually, it does change when you hit retirement and can retire at 60.

    Interestingly, women of my generation were able to retire at 60, but, unfortunately, women must now work until they drop.

    Caron, you have the appearance of a kind and loving woman, so please address the issue of women, and men, who are being told that they must work until they drop.

  • you were making the claim that it was the unions that were stopping you applying directly for a job as a driver, I’m pointing out that the unions have no say in that decision so you need to target your anger at the management

    The management tried to recruit externally in 2013, but were stopped by the unions. You can see the union objection here: http://www.rmtlondoncalling.org.uk/node/4591

    So far form having ‘no say in that decision’, in fact the unions have, it seems, a veto over whether tube drivers can be recruited externally and they successfully used it to ensure that only internal recruitment was allowed.

    The underground have always insisted that anyone joining has to start at the bottom so why should you be any different

    Because that’s a stupid and inefficient way to run a business. If you have a vacancy you need to hire the best person for the job, not artificially restrict your selection to those people who already work there.

    If that principle were universally applied, then nobody could ever change jobs, let alone careers, because they would have to start at the bottom again in their new company. How does that sound like a reasonable world?

  • Shirley Campbell 10th Aug '15 - 12:00pm

    Thanks Dav for drawing to attention to that that is often swept under the carpet!

  • Peter Watson 10th Aug '15 - 12:33pm

    @Dav
    Doesn’t the link you provide simply show that the union disagreed with something that London Underground Ltd. proposed and requested information and discussion about it. It does not prove that management is blameless and that the problems are solely because of a union veto: even the Independent article on this only claimed that “The reason for the internal recruitment is partly down to the unions” (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/london-tube-strike-want-to-become-a-tube-driver-dont-bother-they-only-recruit-internally-10441834.html)

  • Doesn’t the link you provide simply show that the union disagreed with something that London Underground Ltd. proposed and requested information and discussion about it

    It shows that the decision to only recruit internally is not the responsibility of tube management, as had been claimed; tube management proposed a more sensible way of doing things, the union objected, the union got their way, overruling management.

  • There was more ‘disruption’ to business by the ‘Diamond Jubilee’ than strikes in 2012……

    The next time the nurses/firemen (and other night workers with whom the public have more sympathy) take industrial action they may have to appoint overseers for picket lines…..They must give the police their names, which would deter many from stepping forward. They must also give their employers and the police 14 days notice. They must tell them everything they propose to do to, down to the names of Facebook pages and Twitter feeds advancing their case. If they do not, their union could be taken to court. If they get past all the legal hurdles, and actually walk out, the government proposes that employers should be free to bus in agency workers to break the strike…..

    Tube workers are the beginning; those on here decrying union power might consider the final words of Pastor Martin Niemöller’s poem, …” Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”…

  • Shirley Campbell 10th Aug '15 - 1:40pm

    Thank you Lib Dem Voice for allowing those who have a legitimate view a means to express that view. Unfortunately, many closet liberals, fellow articles like myself, are licking their wounds having seen their fellows well and surely beaten .

  • Simon Shaw

    Having read the posts, I do not believe that is the point of the threads coming through. No-one is saying that, however much you may want it to to make your narrow points. I think the point was that, instead of racing to the bottom, and using arguments like “well I don’t earn £50k, so why should you”. The point was merely stating that we should be pushing for higher wages and better conditions for all as opposed to refusing these for a few privileged workers because others don’t earn this amount.

  • Simon Arnold 11th Aug '15 - 11:09pm

    Think about the communters, that suffer day in, and day out. Late, overloaded trains. Unhelpful staff and, an overexpensive poor service, that operates as if it were there as a toy, for the Unions to manipulate. Jubilee Line and Bakerloo, seem to be the worse lines. It is a mess. If the underground were used for animal transport, it would have been closed around twenty years ago.

  • Simon Arnold 11th Aug ’15 – 11:09pm…………………Think about the communters, that suffer day in, and day out. Late, overloaded trains. Unhelpful staff and, an overexpensive poor service, that operates as if it were there as a toy, for the Unions to manipulate. Jubilee Line and Bakerloo, seem to be the worse lines. It is a mess. If the underground were used for animal transport, it would have been closed around twenty years ago……………

    Unions, Eh?
    BTW … A MONTH’S rain will sweep Britain in two days on Thursday and Friday….It’s in the
    Daily Mail‎ so I suppose that will be the unions too…

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