Missed bedtimes? New Tube night shifts will disrupt childcare arrangements and family life for many parents.
#TubeStrike: Why I’ll be striking over compulsory all-night shifts
I’m a ticket officer and station assistant on London Underground, and I’ll be taking 24 hour strike action this evening alongside members of my union, TSSA, and unions representing other tube staff, ASLEF, RMT and Unite. We’re in dispute over the move to all-night running at weekends, starting in September.
That’s not because we oppose all night trains at weekends. They’re a great idea, and will give London a real boost. What we oppose is the way this is being rushed in to meet political aims, without thought for tube workers’ family lives, and without the negotiation that could help find a fairer way.
I currently work 35 to 40 hours a week, doing shifts of 7 1/2 hours. Currently they start as early as 5am, and finish as late as 1am. The changes London Underground Ltd wants won’t mean me working more hours, but they will alter my shift patterns, making me work more unsocial hours to cover the new all-night shifts, some of which would be 12 hours long.
Along with many others, I’m being reclassified as a ‘supervisor’. That basically means the new night shifts will be compulsory and non-negotiable, and many of us will have to do solo staffing of stations as staff are stretched out to cover.
My wife and I have two boys and a girl, aged 15, 12 and 4. Between us, we’ve worked out a pattern that lets me be home to look after the kids, whilst my wife works evenings from 5pm to 9pm. It often feels that my wife and I don’t see enough of each other, but we need the two incomes.
This will only get worse under the new terms. I can take my eldest son to RAF cadets, and my daughter to her karate class in the evenings, but the new days I have to work could put paid to that. Our childcare costs will go up too, and evening childcare is especially expensive.
My colleagues and I are worried about safety, and what it’ll mean for the tube service itself. Depending on rotas, we may have to work 7 shifts in a week, and only be guaranteed a 12 hour gap between an all-night shift and our next shift. If I’m the only one at the station, that responsibility is worrying if I’ll be tired – what if someone’s taken ill on the platform, or a drunken disturbance, if I’m tired-out and working a station alone? I’m also likely to see more verbal or physical abuse on all-night services, which is a big concern.
I voted to strike as I want to see this change introduced fairly, and this is really our last option. I don’t take the decision lightly. It disrupts the service I work hard to provide every day, and will inconvenience the passengers who rely on us. I can’t see us getting a fair hearing in the press, and it’s worrying to think what friends and customers will hear about us. It’ll mean losing a day’s pay too, which is always a concern when money is tight.
But if LU press ahead with these compulsory changes it’s going to be terrible for my family, and that’s my bottom line. The kids are growing up fast and I don’t want to miss out. I’m worried I’ll be too tired to spend quality time with them because of chopping and changing between early morning, late evening and all-night shifts.
I think a lot of it is just politics – the Mayor shouldn’t have promised a start date for night trains before negotiating fair shift arrangements with staff. He doesn’t want to admit he messed up, so he’s making out we’re the ones to blame.
I don’t object to night working, but these things have to be done fairly and with an awareness of the impact they’ll have on workers’ lives. Anyone would feel the same if their boss suddenly expected them to work all night.
So if our industrial action makes your life difficult today, I’m sorry, honestly. It’s not our intention. But these changes will do that for us every day, week in, week out, and this strike is the only way we can make our employer listen to our call for a fairer solution. Please support us – Share this message if you can, or offer your support if you see a picket line – it will mean a lot to us.