The Office of Rail Regulation has been urged to grill London Underground (LUL) bosses on safety issues affecting millions of tube passengers, as the power workers’ strike starts at 20:00 tonight (Tuesday 1 July).
Unite, the country’s largest union, which represents most of the 40 power technicians, has written to Richard Price, chief executive of the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), to challenge LUL management that its contingency plans are robust enough.
The strike is due to run from 20:00 tonight to 20:00 hours on Wednesday 9 July. The RMT and TSSA unions will also be taking similar industrial action.
The 40 technicians are based at the power control room in Blackfriars Road, London, SE1 8NJ where they provide the power for the 270 station underground network.
In his letter to ORR, Unite regional officer Hugh Roberts said: “Serious matters of public safety arise from the way LUL intends to manage the control of power during our members’ strike action.
“The duration of industrial action is for several days and nights and LUL intends for two managers supervising the volunteers - to work several shifts each without a rest day.
“LUL has stated previously it would compromise safety if three night shifts were worked consecutively - in fact, this statement was made by one of those same managers being asked to supervise the volunteers.
“Neither of these individuals or any of the volunteers for that matter have worked nights on a regular basis to the best of our knowledge.
“It appears to us that owing to the duration of the strike action there is a very real risk of something going terribly wrong as the managers become more fatigued over time.
“We urge you to challenge LUL over the robustness of their plans as none of the trade unions wish to compromise public safety.”
The dispute is complex and involves the workforce being tuped - Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 - to other organisations some years ago, and then coming back under London Underground management, but with different conditions.
This means that some workers started their length of service from day one when they returned to London Underground, while others brought back their full number of previous years’ service. This would have a differential impact on the level of pensions and other entitlements for some staff.
Unite is also asking for more money for its members to do the training of new recruits, but the management wants the staff to take on this additional responsibility for no extra cash.
For further information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940 and/or the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065.
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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.