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Justice for 'the 33' sacked tube workers
Used, abused and refused
Sack the agency not the workers
In 2007, London Underground (LU) took over a Trainpeople agency contract from Silverlink. Ignoring their agreements with unions to make agency workers permanent after six months, LU continued to employ workers through the Trainpeople agency, paying them as little as £6.75 an hour, instead of giving them permanent LU contracts.
Then LU initially ignored the 2011 Agency Worker Regulations (AWR), refusing to give the Trainpeople workers equal rights with permanent staff.
After winning equal pay - but still owed thousands of pounds in back pay - the agency workers were sacked in December 2012 when LU ended the Trainpeople contract one year early.
The RMT transport union is campaigning for all 33 to be re-employed as permanent staff.
Three of the 33 spoke to the Socialist about their struggle
I used to work for London Underground on the north end of the Bakerloo line from Queens Park to Harrow and Wealdstone for five years.
During that time I carried out frontline duties such as working as a Customer Service Assistant and a Station Assistant Multifunctional (ticket office clerk) in full LU uniform but without any of the benefits a permanent employee is entitled to, no travel pay, sick pay, pension, etc.
In those five years I applied continuously for a permanent position and continuously was refused. In those five years of service for LU I have attained many successful achievements and appraisal from management within LU.
In October 2011 the AWR came into place, and I hoped that at last I would see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Unfortunately the agency, Trainpeople, and LU made a mockery of it. They both ignored the law and continued exploiting us and refused us our rights according to AWR.
When questions about our rights were raised with the agency and LU via our union, RMT, they showed no intention to respect and obey the law.
As we raised questions and explored our rights LU dramatically terminated the contract.
We were given this news on 19 December 2012. When everyone was looking forward to celebrating their Christmas, I was in the opposite mindset, not knowing where and how I will get the funds to pay for my house, bills, food, etc.
This was to be my worst nightmare. I could lose my house and all the money I put into it and be made homeless.
After receiving such horrible news I was depressed, unable to think straight. I haven't been working for nearly four months; I have had no income coming during that time.
I have sold so many of my personal belongings just to try to fund my bills. I can't eat or sleep well and now I haven't got anything else to sell.
According to the AWR I am owed up to £15,000 in back pay, I am yet to see a penny of it.
All my rights have been refused and now I am being humiliated continuously by the very same company that I respectfully and professionally served for five years.
I started in February 2009. I was paid as little as £6.75 compared to what LU paid their staff, as much as £17.76. Almost three times as much! We were being treated as second class citizens - modern day slavery.
I was doing CSA and SMF [Customer Service Assistant and Station Assistant Multifunctional]. When you are in charge of a small station, you are in charge of everything - you are the manager, you do the announcements. If something happens on the station you are the one in charge.
A new group station manager took over around 2010. He said he was going to do everything in his power to get rid of the agency workers, not knowing that one of us was there and overheard him say that.
To accomplish this, he had trained supervisors and DSMs [duty managers], but they were trained by some of us - we trained them! We train them but we are not good enough to get these jobs!
We wrote to Trainpeople about the new regulations and our position. But still they didn't say anything until we hired a 'no win, no fee' lawyer. Am I supposed to hire a lawyer to get paid?
In November 2011, there were vacant internal positions - we applied. The feedback we got was: 'awaiting assessment'.
Between November 2011 and March 2012, we didn't get any response. They finished the recruitment campaign and said they wanted to recruit internally, so they moved us from internal to external! Then I was sent back the same afternoon to do the work which I was not qualified to apply for!
For the Olympics the permanent staff got a bonus. We worked, filled in for holidays, but didn't get any bonus.
After the Olympics the LU bosses were commended - OBEs etc. I contributed; if I hadn't done my work properly, I would have jeopardised the awards they received. I didn't even get a thank you!
Other train companies, when the agency law came in, took the agency workers in.
RMT have set up a hardship fund but we're still struggling. I can't provide for my children any more. That is why every other day I come to the LU headquarters to make a noise.
LU have taken on 550 more people - if you are recruiting 550, why don't you take on 33 who have been working for five years?
We have achieved both 100% 'mystery shopper' ratings and commendation letters. We have covered all sorts of posts that need to be filled, eg ticket office clerk, barrier staff, etc.
We have a proven track record and some of us can speak French, Arabic and Italian which helps in communicating with customers.
LU claimed to have launched a fair and transparent recruitment policy.
But we have been told we cannot reach the "benchmark".
We were carrying out the same tasks as non-agency, permanent staff. We have also trained duty station managers and station supervisors. At no point was our quality of work ever called into question.
One of our colleagues dealt with a 'one under' fatality - someone going under a train. But when he sought counselling, he was told that he is not qualified as he was not a London Underground employee, even though he was fully uniformed!
We are devastated and depressed by the loss of our jobs. We've protested outside the stations and LU offices, and outside London City Hall. We have also got coverage in the local Hammersmith and Fulham newspaper.
One of our colleagues has become homeless and many others are on the verge of becoming homeless. Some are walking two miles a day to go to a soup kitchen because they cannot afford food.
Our positions have been filled by 33 totally new staff and I believe it will cost £10,000 per person to train them - in total £330,000.
I am a father of three who is now unemployed. I was the only breadwinner of the family. I used to take my nine-year old daughter to supplementary classes.
She was getting excellent literacy and numeracy grades. Now I can no longer afford the tuition fees. I'm now being supported financially by my grandparents to survive. I have been roundly used, refused and abused by LU bosses.
Support the 33
Join their protest at Edgware Road tube station (District Line entrance), 8am, Friday 3 May
Send donations to RMT, 39 Chalton Street, London NW1 1JD
Please make cheques payable to 'RMT' and mark on the back 'Hardship fund for the 33'
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 30 April 2013 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.