Metronet collapse led to row over jobs

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The Independent Online

Today's strike by London Underground workers has some of its roots in the collapse of Metronet, the infrastructure giant which was at the centre of the last bout of industrial action on the Tube.

The Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union staged industrial action in September 2007 as part of its campaign to have Tube maintenance and upgrades brought back into the public sector.

Metronet has since collapsed and has been brought back under public control, leading London Underground (LU) and London mayor Boris Johnson to insist that 1,000 jobs must go because of duplication.

Transport for London (TfL) inherited 7,000 staff from Metronet, which it says has led to the duplication of many roles, mainly in administration, legal, and finance departments, as well as among contractors.

The RMT is pressing for a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies despite assurances from TfL that it aimed to achieve the cuts through voluntary means and that no front-line staff, such as train drivers, station staff or engineers, will lose their jobs.

Union leaders have accused TfL of being prepared to "tear up agreements" over job protection, arguing that Tube workers who were transferred to Metronet under the controversial public-private partnership (PPP) were given a continuity of employment contract.

The union believes the document is in effect a no compulsory redundancy agreement, protecting staff who are once again employed by LU or TfL.

The second issue is over pay, although negotiators believed the two sides were very close to reaching agreement after LU tabled two revised offers when an initial five-year deal was rejected.

The new offer is either a two-year deal worth 1% this year and the rate of inflation plus 0.5% next year, or a four-year deal of 1.5% now and the rate of inflation plus 0.5% in future years.

The union has also complained of a culture of bullying and harassment at LU and called for the reinstatement of two of its members who were sacked.

Managers have steadfastly refused to reverse the sackings and insisted that the usual disciplinary procedures were followed.

One of the sackings, over a safety-related incident, has already led to strikes on the Victoria Line.