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London Underground in 2018 by Tanaka Nobukazu. Photo: PxHere

London Underground in 2018 by Tanaka Nobukazu. Photo: PxHere

As ASLEF ballots London Underground workers for strike action, Counterfire interviewed union rep Karen Baker

Why is ASLEF balloting its members?

ASLEF are balloting for strike action because London Underground is failing to commit to honouring existing agreements and not to impose changes to our terms and conditions without agreement.

Any changes must come in by agreement and not imposition. ASLEF have repeatedly asked London Underground for this commitment but this has been refused. That is why ASLEF are now in dispute.

What are the causes of this particular dispute? How long has it been going on for?

Since the start of the Pandemic, Covid-19 has been used to ignore existing agreements and practices. We have been working throughout the pandemic with train timetables not designed with Covid-19 in mind. Even with union reps spending a week trying to rewrite the timetables with no help back in April!

Everything has been a battle since March; the cleaning of trains, hand sanitiser, masks. As a union we got these implemented. 

What are your demands?

Our demands are simple, we need a firm commitment from London Underground that they will not impose changes to our terms and conditions.

What has it been like organising rank-and-file during the pandemic?

As drivers we have all pulled together and supported each other throughout the pandemic, it’s been very challenging, but our drivers’ resolve has got us all through a very tough six months. We have kept London moving. So, London Underground not giving us assurance and commitment, after the hard work of our drivers, is an insult.

Karen Baker is the ASLEF Level 1 Industrial Relations Representative from the union’s Wembley Park 251 Branch.

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