Friday, January 12, 2007

London news round-up

Thames watermen warn of de-skilling danger

A NEW SYSTEM of licensing boat workers on the Thames came into force last week, sweeping away a 450-year-old system of five-year apprenticeship in the twists and turns, tides and currents of the river.
The Government has replaced this with a two-and-a-half-year training scheme leading to a boat-master’s licence, in line with European Union standards. But the Thames watermen say they fear this will lead to increased dangers of accidents.
The new licence will allow people who have qualified on other rivers to take charge of a commercial boat with no experience on the Thames at all.
Tug-boat Captain Bert Andrews explained that Thames watermen navigate using tiny details. For example, four steps showing above the waterline at Wandsworth tells him the tide is low enough to pass with his tug and loaded barges under the fourth arch of the Battersea road bridge.
He said: “There is no way that someone who’s worked on another river can come and gain sufficient experience to be in control of people’s lives within six months, but that is what is going to happen.”

Protest at plans to cut Tube cleaner jobs

THE RMT transport union last Monday called an emergency lobby of the Greater London Authority at City Hall to protest at what it described a “an obscene, unnecessary and potentially dangerous” cull of more than 200 ISS cleaning jobs on the London Underground.
The 204 job cuts were ordered by fat-cat London Underground contractor Tube Lines are more than a quarter of that company’s cleaning staff. Tube Lines says it is “refocusing resources” for station cleaning.
London Mayor Ken Livingstone has said there is “no reason” to cut the jobs. “I do not see how they can maintain standards of cleanliness by cutting staff,” he said. “Given the profits that the infrastructure companies enjoy, there is no case for reducing these cleaning jobs.”
He also pointed out that under their contract; Tube Lines was responsible for cleanliness.


RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “Our members are stunned and absolutely furious at the scale of job losses that ISS casually let slip just before Christmas.
“It was bad enough when we were led to believe that up to 100 jobs were under threat, but the true scale of the damage Tube Lines is doing to our members and their families and to London Underground is obscene, unnecessary and potentially dangerous.
“Tube Lines has made nearly £160 million in profits in just three years, but that is clearly not enough for them because now they want to squeeze even more profit out of the people who already do the dirtiest jobs for the lowest pay.
“We are asking the Mayor and London Underground for urgent discussions to see what can be done to force Tube Lines to reverse this decision.
“There is no way that levels of station and train cleanliness can be maintained on the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines with a loss of 27 per cent of the cleaning workforce.
“But there are also serious safety and security issues involved in cutting cleaning staff, not least at a time when tons of newsprint are being dumped in stations and on trains every day.
“RMT will use every means available to stop these job cuts, but it is time for the Mayor, Transport for London and London Underground to tell Tube Lines that it cannot impose this massive cut.”