Clashes have erupted over tfl’s plan to run a 24-hour Tube service at weekends from the 12th September 2015, with the RMT reacting angrily at how the plan will affect Tube workers. The plan includes a ‘Night Tube’ to run on Fridays and Saturdays, aimed at cutting journey times by an average of 20 minutes. On the face of it, the idea looks a good one: London is a 24-hour, bustling city that demands responsive transport networks to help people manage their lives and increasingly fragmented working hours. However the RMT union have argued against the plan, calling it a ‘disaster waiting to happen,’ and lacking in detail. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said ‘this proposal is now being bulldozed through without proper risk assessment or agreement on core issues.’ How an increase in operating hours will affect current workers remains unsure, with RMT voicing concern that increases will compromise current working hours agreements with employees, resulting in longer hours.
With the majority of planned change, timing is crucial, and it seems no coincidence that the current pay deal for tfl staff comes to an end in April. Obviously this new plan will certainly affect and lead negotiations.
Changing employment conditions agreed in a contract – such as increasing working hours – is difficult and can result in negative consequences for the employer. Contracts are inherently inflexible, purposely so in order to protect both parties and guide them on responsibilities and expectations. Employers can theoretically dismiss the workforce directly affected by an operation change, such as increased hours, and offer a new deal. Or those who have foreseen possible change might have included a clause in the employment contract giving the employer the rights to make changes to working hour and the expectation that the employee is willing to work shift-hours. Although these changes in working times can only be a reorganisation of existing hours, and not an increase or extension beyond what is agreed in the original contract.
For tfl, the better option, should they wish to utilise current employers to manage the extension in hours, is the oldest incentive in the book: increased pay. Alternatively, and more likely, given there are no plans to cut back the service, tfl will have to consider employing more staff to cover the full service.