Unions demand ‘no victimization, no unsafe working’ as Northern Line tube comes to a halt

13 October 2005

The General Secretaries of RMT and ASLEF gave a joint press conference this morning as London’s Northern tube Line came to a halt over safety problems linked to brake ‘trips’ that are designed to automatically stop a train going through a red light.

Bob Crow and Keith Norman both insisted that there must be no victimization of individuals who had refused to take trains out on safety grounds; that no driver be required to take out a train he or she feels to be unsafe; and that the union’s health and safety representatives should be satisfied that modifications to the ‘trip’ system will be robust and effective.

Management appears to have given assurances on these points verbally, but exactly when the line will re-open remains uncertain. Health and safety representatives seem to think that early next week is most likely.

The unions insist that any longer-term solution must include the need for maintenance to be carried out by in-house staff. They are convinced that the recent difficulties arose because of shortcomings in private contractor’s maintenance, and intend to raise the issue with London mayor Ken Livingstone. They point to the fact that an LU spokesman said yesterday that a complicating factor in sorting out the engineering faults had been ‘complex contracts’.

‘It looks more like insanity than complexity to me,’ says ASLEF leader Keith Norman. ‘It is ludicrous that safety depends on a private contractor (Tube Lines) who then sub-contract (to Alstom). Once you’re trying to control the private contractor’s sub contractor, you know you’re going to get nowhere fast. This is the crux of this week’s difficulties.’

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