Tube union RMT, has hit out at unsafe staffing levels on London Underground following a series of reports suggesting waivers to safety regulations are being inappropriately used.
In a letter to London Mayor Sadiq Khan, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch highlights a series of incidents where stations have had less than the required staff and, in some cases, no staff at all.
Mr Lynch goes on to say that these problems have been caused by de-staffing, in particular the decision to axe 600 station jobs, something the RMT has taken strike action over.
In the letter, Mr Lynch writes:
"I’m writing to express my deep concern at reports I am receiving concerning station safety at London Underground.
"I have received multiple reports of Senior Operating Officers (SOO) issuing waivers that override Minimum Staffing levels that were established to ensure the safe operation of London Underground stations.
"In the wake of the Kings Cross fire of 1987, Minimum Staffing Levels were enshrined in statute by the Fire Precautions (Sub-surface Railway Stations) Regulations 1989 (S.I. 1989/1401) and then reinforced by London Underground regulations that set safe staffing levels for stations based on their size and traffic.
"Yet an increasing number of stations are being opened with a staffing level below that considered to be consistent with passenger safety.
"Recently, for example, Barbican, a busy Zone 1 station, was left completely unstaffed all day, while Farringdon was left open without the required level of staff.
"I am disturbed, to say the least, by what appears to be an emerging culture of using these waivers to cover up the under-staffing of London Underground stations.
"As you will know, these waivers are designed to be used if the risks to safety can be shown to outweigh the risks of leaving the stations open while under-staffed. Yet in the cases I’ve seen the reason being given is ‘customer inconvenience’, which it is claimed might lead to angry passengers targeting staff.
"Yet the risks associated with under-staffed or even un-staffed stations are far greater for staff and passengers alike.
"In addition, it is hypocritical in the extreme for London Underground to use the potential threat to our staff as a reason to override minimum staffing levels on our Tube stations.
"The truth is that these actions are the direct consequence of the de-staffing of the Tube in recent years and, most critically, of LU management’s decision to delete 600 station staff posts.
"RMT members have taken five days of strike action across all grades in defence of jobs, pensions and agreements, RMT station members took an additional day to highlight the threat of 600 job reductions. My members on the three groups, where job reductions have been imposed so far, took further strike action on 25th November 2022.
"It is now clear that London Underground cannot keep stations open on a reliable basis and in compliance with safety regulations now, let alone after 600 (over 10% of all station staff) posts are removed.
"I am therefore demanding a moratorium on station staffing reductions and immediate investigation into the use of Senior Operating Official waivers to avoid minimum number regulations."