Socialist Worker

Safety concerns over scabbing on Tube

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2411

Pickets are standing firm

Power control room operators are standing firm on the picket line (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Workers have raised severe safety concerns as Tube bosses waste millions of pounds of public money in an effort to beat a strike.

Around 40 London Underground power control room operators (PCROs) began a 14-day strike on Tuesday of last week.

The workers, members of the Unite, RMT and TSSA unions, are angry at a range of attacks relating to privatisation and planned cuts.

PCROs have never struck before. But strikers told Socialist Worker that they have seen a “hardening in management” who are increasingly business minded and “pig-headed”.

They work 24 hours a day all year round in a controlled environment marshalling 22,000 volts of electricity. It is a safety critical role for the whole tube network.

Bosses are keeping the Tube running with a scab operation that they say is safe. But some Tube workers have refused to work, citing serious health and safety concerns.

Strikers told Socialist Worker the scabs had no operational experience of the system before the strike.

One said, “In reality there is one person in there with an idea of the job supervising the others.

“But even they have no recent operational experience. All they have had is a crash course on a simulated system.”

Strikers worry that with so few covering their long shifts the fatigue and stress could mean they easily miss something crucial.

Often PCROs are called on to discharge track sections of power to deal with an incident during passenger hours, such as a person under a train. This allows other Tube and emergency workers to safely go onto the track.

“But one click of a button and it’s 600 volts into that track section,” the striker said, underlining the life and death nature of the decisions that PCROs make.

Bosses have cancelled Tube upgrade engineering work throughout the strike, with a knock-on cost of millions.

Strikers also say that not all tracks are being discharged in the evening. This would mean that regular night time maintenance can’t be happening either.

The strike is solid. But will bosses respond to the workers’ demands before a serious incident takes place on the watch of their scabbing operation?

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TFL staff to join 10 July walkout

More than 1,000 workers at Transport for London (TfL) were set to strike on Thursday of this week, 10 July, over attacks on pay and pensions. 

They will join up to 1.4 million public sector workers striking that day.

TfL bosses want to freeze wages and scrap the workers’ final salary pension scheme.

The TSSA, RMT and Unite unions have already struck twice, and could be joined by other TfL workers in the PCS union who voted to join the dispute.

Unison union members are also balloting. The 10 July strike will be only the third ever at London’s transport authority.


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Article information

Tue 8 Jul 2014, 17:30 BST
Issue No. 2411
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