Tube workers always knew that the “Fit for the Future — Stations” plan, which includes the 953 job cuts and cross-network ticket office closures against with RMT and TSSA members struck last month, were just the tip of the iceberg. “Fit for the Future — Trains” was never going to be far behind. And now LU bosses have announced what union activists have suspected for a long time: driverless trains are on their way… unless we can stop them!
RMT and drivers’ union ASLEF have launched a joint dispute in a bid to stop the introduction of driverless trains. The RMT’s General Grades Committee said it was “outraged at London Underground’s ‘employee bulletin’, dated 19 February 2014, announcing the imminent commissioning of driverless/cabless trains for the Piccadilly, Bakerloo, Central and Waterloo & City Lines. Not only has there been no consultation at any level with this trade union on the matter, but this announcement, outside normal negotiation channels, also goes against the written commitment from LU Director of Employee Relations, Mr Gerry Duffy on 29 October 2013 to hold a meeting with RMT representatives to discuss this issue.
The RMT GGC statement continued: “Every train must have a driver to ensure the safe and effective running of the Underground. We believe that the travelling public also strongly want a driver on the front of the train for their own safety and security. Furthermore this General Grades Committee believes that this announcement is not only a reckless direct attack to the safety culture on London Underground but is also an attack to the train driver grade as a whole. This trade union will fight to defend the train driver grade on London Underground! We demand a cab at the front of every train; a train driver on the front!”
(Read the statement in full here.)
This announcement makes it even clearer that the current dispute is not simply about station jobs or ticket offices, but is an a conflict between two competing visions for the Tube — one, management’s, based on destaffing, automation, and casualisation, versus the union and community vision of an integrated, well-funded, publicly-owned, democratically-controlled transport system, well staffed by skilled workers.