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Tube workers rights, safety under attack, say union bosses

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Trade unions co-ordinating a strike in the London Underground have called for recognition of the damage cuts to the service will impose on workers’ employment conditions.

While protesting staff have focused on voicing concerns about how the cuts might risk passenger safety, leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) Manuel Cortes warned employees who survived cutbacks would face reduced salaries.

His comments followed research published by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) that suggested certain staff groups would be adversely affected by staff loses.

The union’s equalities impact assessment found female, black and minority ethnic (BME), lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), and younger workers would fare worst.

It claimed reducing staff in LU ticket offices would mean such employees were more likely to be left alone and vulnerable to attacks and abuse from members of the public.

It also warned redundancies would negatively affect attempts to promote younger staff or provide apprenticeships.

Cortes said the dispute between workers and London Underground had “rightly been focused on the implications of safety for the travelling public with the closure of all 250 tube ticket offices”.

"But for remaining staff things will get a whole lot harder if Mayor Boris Johnson has his way with a massive re-grading exercise, which will see much lower salaries for those that remain at Transport for London. This is a long term attack on our members’ wages and conditions," he said.

London Underground wants to reduce staff by a net number of 750, and has offered all staff who wish to remain with the organisation the option of redeployment.

It wants to remove staff from underused ticket offices, and claims less than 3% of all tube journeys now involve a visit to a ticket office.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow described London Underground’s plans as “discriminatory” and added they would “throw into total reverse gains secured to push the tube forwards as an employer where equality of opportunity is taken seriously”.?

“Important groups of staff will be left vulnerable to abuse and assault as enforced lone working is bulldozed through and opportunities to advance through promotion and career development will be blocked off throughout the structures,” he said.?

“We have yet to see any equality impact assessment as it affects tube users and we are demanding that documentation which will no doubt be just as damning, if not more so, in respect of women, people with disabilities and the BME and LGBT communities. ? 

“The equalities impact assessments are a shocking indictment of London Underground’s cash-led cuts plans and are further rock-solid evidence as to why they should be withdrawn.”

London Underground said it had received enquires about voluntary severance terms from more than 1,000 employees and more than 450 firm expressions of interest.

London Underground managing director Mike Brown said: “We will implement these changes without compulsory redundancies and, already, there have been over 1,000 enquiries about voluntary severance.

“There will be a job for everyone at London Underground who wants to work for us and be flexible."

The tube strike began on the evening of 4 February and is due to end in the evening of 6 February.