Socialist Worker

Abolishing the rule book on the tubes threatens safety

by Unjum Mirza
Issue No. 2053

The King’s Cross fire of 1987 was a terrible warning

The King’s Cross fire of 1987 was a terrible warning

London Underground is launching a major attack on the safety of staff and the public this week. It was to implement new rule books from this Thursday 31 May.

This is a move away from rules and regulations towards guidance. Under the old rule books if you got task A, you would follow rule B to achieve outcome C.

Under the new rule books, management have scrapped the regulations which lay down a method of working. Instead all that matters is achieving the outcome.

So, while working on the track for example, there will no longer be a series of safe working methods, equipment usage and procedures.

The distilled experience of workers which has refined how to do a job properly in the rule book will be tossed aside.

On such a large, complex system such as London Underground this could lead to disaster.

Management are making a principle out of cutting corners. Even bosses accept that there are errors in the new rule books.

So there is even the ludicrous suggestion that the members uncomfortable with the new rule books could continue to work to the old. But you cannot run a mass transport system to two sets of rules.

The existing rules were drawn up following the King's Cross fire in 1987 that claimed 31 lives. They have been added to and tightened over the years following investigations and recommendations.

Our rules lay the basis for the fundamental way in which we carry out our tasks. The new rule books represent a move towards 'flexibility' and 'multi-tasking' – how to get fewer staff doing more work.

The RMT union will be in dispute with London Underground, Metronet and Tube Lines if the new rule books are implemented.

We will run a campaign alongside a planned industrial action ballot informing the public about the issues involved. We will ask them to assist us in avoiding any tragedies on the tube.

Management are also using new technology like Oyster travel cards to cut jobs and destaff stations. This is unacceptable and appalingly short sighted.

London was bombed on 7 July 2005. We will remain a target as long as the government continues with its disastrous policy of supporting the US in its wars.

Trained and licensed staff are absolutely essential in any emergency response and saving lives – as tube workers did bravely on that fateful day in July 2005.

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Article information

Tue 29 May 2007, 18:53 BST
Issue No. 2053
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