In what is possibly the vaguest press release I have ever seen, ASLEF seem to be taking a leaf out of the RMT's book and are thinking it was about time they went on strike. They may have gained a number of extra members due to Bob Crow's popular behaviour over the New Year's Eve and January Tube strike, and possibly feel they ought to reward their new membership and thank the current membership for their loyalty!
From ASLEF's website "The 2,200 London Underground train operators represented by ASLEF will be balloted for industrial action later this month after a 'serious breakdown in industrial relations and trust'.
The union accuses the company of ignoring agreements, imposing change without negotiation and inflicting excessive and draconian punishments."
What does anyone make of this? "The union's National Organiser Andy Reed says industrial relations vary from hostility to anarchy. 'To operate in a civilized industrial climate we need to respect agreements in place and, where appropriate, discuss and agree change.
'LUL do neither. This is why the only alternative is seek a mandate for industrial action. The union will be recommending a series of 24 hour non-continuous strikes'."
However if you read on it seems as though there are a number of issues that ASLEF have with London Underground and they are moaning that the whole thing is a mess.
Anyway, they continue "Representatives are not allowed time off for union duties. Transfer agreements are regularly ignored."
Apparently ballot papers will be issued next week and the result of the strike will be announced on the 13th February. But already it appears that these strikes will go ahead. "Andy Reed concludes, 'This list demonstrates the breadth of differences between the union and management. I would say it is highly unlikely that they will be resolved before 9 February.'
Ever the optimist Andy!
UPDATE - 8.30am- "leaked" ASLEF letter from my "mole"
OHMIGOD - Someone has sent me the letter they received from ASLEF about this.
I hardly know where to begin. I'm not sure from a legal point of view where I would stand if I published the whole thing as I would certainly like to, but by the same token I wouldn't like to get sued by the person that wrote this letter, as they are, well.....rather "enthusiastic"
The letter says London Underground's new management is "union bashing" and is now "about the let the dogs out". It tells of LU holding "'scientology brainwashing sessions' in the big tent at Waterloo" and says staff's caring LU management are now "free to bully and threaten you with discipline" if staff are late. After some more enthusiastic claims about the procedure staff go through over attendance, lateness and sick issues, the letter concludes "Join ASLEF the only Union fighting the real threat to you. ASLEF knows only a united front resists the erosion of agreements and conditions." Priceless.
Meanwhile back at the RMT
Talks to resolve the dispute behind the New Year's Eve and Sunday/Monday's Tube strikes have resumed. Yesterday, RMT Union leader Bob Crow said "We are pleased that discussions have recommenced with LU to resolve all the outstanding issues relating to the dispute. No further comment will be made until the talks conclude."
London Underground added "We are continuing to talk to the RMT and TSSA [Transport Salaried Staffs' Association] on the planned implementation of the shorter working week." For more on this see the BBC
Strikes aren't what they used to be - Evening Standard
Friday's Evening Standard Business section carried a feature from Christopher Fildes who argues that although British strikes aren't what they used to be we shouldn't write them off yet. "This week's Tube strike, like last week's was unlucky for some, but most of the trains ran and most of the stations were open. The union intends to try again and hopes to do better or worse. It may have to accept though, that strikes, like other traditonal British institutions, are not what they used to be. Why, in 2004 fewer than a million working days were lost to labour disputes, and 2005 was even quieter."
However he argues that strikes are more popular in Europe in general. France has more than we do and Italy has five times as many. The public sector has the most strikes in Britain. "The public sector's share of the economy has been steadily increasing and it has provided a million new jobs in less than a decade. How well this money is spent and whether all the new recruits can be expected to come in to work are questions for debate, but it all helps to ensure fabulous monsters such as Bob Crow (Pterodactyl) can still spread their leathern wings."
He argues that harmonisation with Europe "may yet bring our strike rate in line with Italy's. Don't write off the British strike yet."