Open letter to Mike Brown

23 March 2016

This is an open letter to Mike Brown, London's Transport Commissioner, from Finn Brennan, ASLEF's organiser on London Underground:

Dear Mike,

I hope you won’t mind me writing to you like this. I don’t believe we have ever formally met (though we nodded hello in a lift at 55 Broadway once, I think) so I hope you will excuse me addressing you so informally.

I know you area very busy man nowadays. With TfL getting ready to take over so many new services there must be a lot for you to do. I wonder if you look, sometimes, at the multi-coloured lines of the old London Connections rail map and think “One day all this will be mine”! And, of course, there are so many ceremonial ribbons to cut, so many dignitaries' hand, to shake, all those meetings with the Queen!

It’s a longtime now since you used to manage train drivers on the Hammersmith & City line, but I’m sure you still like to keep an eye on what’s going on. Perhaps progress on meeting key performance indicators and reliability targets is sent to your office, and the senior management team from London Underground give you a briefing every now and then. As is the way of these things, they probably like to give their boss the good news and are a bit less keen to pass on the bad.

You see, things aren’t actually going all that well on the ground floor. There is going to be a strike on the Piccadilly line on Thursday and none of the senior management team seem all that interested. None of them have been able to find the time in their busy, busy diaries to meet with us. They don’t seem to feel that working with staff and trade union reps to discover the causes of poor industrial relations, and finding ways to resolve problems amicably, is something they need to bother to do. Maybe it’s not one of their KPIs.

Of course, it wouldn’t be surprising if not much news from the ground floor filtered up to you. Did you know that between the women and men driving their trains and you,there is a Duty Train Staff Manager, a Duty Reliability Manager, a Train Operations Support Manager, a Train Operations Manager, a Line Performance Manager (Trains), a Line General Manager, a Service Director, a Chief Operating Officer and a Managing Director? It must be pretty hard to keep in touch when there are just so many layers in between.

That’s why I thought it best to write to you directly. Because, you see, someone really needs to get a grip on what’s happening on the Underground. Someone needs to start asking just why it is that train drivers feel they have to go on strike to get someone to listen to them and to deal with their problems at work.

So perhaps the next time you meet your senior management team you might want to mention this to them. Maybe you could point out to them that problems don’t go away by ignoring them. That they have a workforce who are hugely committed to their jobs and genuinely want to provide a good service to the people of London. And that maybe they should start listening and engaging with them and their trade unions to make things work better for everyone.

Apologies again for taking up your time. Perhaps we will bump into each other in a lift again some day soon.

Until then, best regards,

Finn Brennan

District Organiser

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