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This Is What A Tube Driver Says The Strike Is Actually About

It's not the money.

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The tube strike has stopped a lot of Londoners getting to work and made lots of people angry.

Stupid Tube drivers striking they already get 50k when they start and want more greedy shit heads

Their argument is that tube drivers are already well-paid – £50,000 a year is the figure being bandied around – and that striking for more pay is greedy.

The word "greedy" comes up regularly.

Over 2 hours late for work due to greedy tube drivers!!! Maybe you should try becoming a nurse doing long night shifts for half your pay!

However, according to the tube workers themselves, it's not just drivers striking, and the dispute is not chiefly about pay. The main issue is the planned introduction of a 24-hour tube service in two months' time.

Amy Roberts / Twitter

Amy Roberts (above), a tube driver and an equality and diversity representative for the ASLEF trade union, is one of those participating in the strike. She told BuzzFeed News that "this strike is definitely not about money. The strike is about work-life balance and the fair and safe introduction of the night tube.

"It's a really big issue for all the workers on LU [London Underground], not just train-side, but station staff as well."

All of the employees of the tube are on strike, including station workers. The lowest-paid are on about £30,000. All qualified tube drivers are on £49,000, said Roberts.

Tube workers are concerned that 24-hour running will force them to work more evenings and weekends.

Nick Ansell / PA

All tube staff members, both drivers and station staff, already work evenings and weekends, said Roberts. "We can't continue to have more weekends and antisocial hours working, and we're currently working a lot. Everyone does shift patterns at the moment, nights and weekends.

"All we are fighting for is a fair introduction of the night tube. Every member of staff has a life and a family. I personally don't have any children, but for workers who have children it's going to be tough – it's going to be a real strain on people's families, especially if they can't see their family members as much."

A spokesperson for the RMT union told BuzzFeed News that some staff are "already working in some cases three weekends out of four", adding: "To meet the extra shifts that'll be required to run the service from basically 5am Friday morning through to midnight on Sunday, clearly you need a massive structural change in terms of staffing arrangements."

They said increased shift work will have health impacts on workers.

Dominic Lipinski / PA

"It's not good for your health, it's not good for your life in general," said Roberts. "It takes a toll on your sleeping, on your eating."

The RMT spokesperson agreed, saying that prolonged night shift work raises workers' risk of various diseases, including heart disease and cancer, a claim that is backed up by scientific evidence.

They also said they're concerned for the safety of passengers and staff.

Dominic Lipinski / PA

"I currently do a lot of late terms, so I see a lot of drunks," said Roberts. "There will be a lot of people using night tube who've been going out, and they won't get a taxi home, they'll jump on a tube. I think that's fantastic, but we want it to be safe for passengers, as well as for us."

As station staff numbers have been cut, sexual assaults, arrests for drunkenness, and racially motivated assaults have all become more common, the RMT spokesperson said. This could get worse when all-night tubes happen if there aren't more staff to cover them. "Who's going to be travelling on the tube at 4am on a Sunday morning?" he said. "It's going to be people who've been out on the razz. Nothing wrong with that, but it's going to increase the risk of people being drunk and potentially abusive and aggressive on the tube."

Train and track maintenance is usually done overnight, noted Roberts, adding: "We want it done to a good standard, and that's something that needs to be considered when you're implementing night tubes."

Another issue has been how the negotiations have been handled.

Lauren Hurley/PA

"It wasn't until this week – two months before the night tube system is supposed to be introduced – that they came forward with any kind of offer, and then gave us two hours to reject or accept it," the RMT spokesperson said. That "wound the whole thing up to a level where action was almost inevitable. It's just been botched from start to finish.

"There's been a complete failure to actually negotiate seriously around the issues that concern us, and a complete lack of recognition of the duty of care that London Underground has to its workforce."

Roberts is unwilling to talk about the negotiations, but says tube staff are genuinely angry about the proposed deal. "All four unions that represent London Underground workers are participating in the biggest strike for over a decade," she said. "More than 90% of [those who voted] voted in favour of the strike." London Underground has imposed changes without input from the unions, she said. "We're striking for the right to negotiate changes to our working lives."

Roberts acknowledges that, in general, tube drivers do get a good deal.

Nick Ansell / PA

"I enjoy my job," she said. "We're satisfied with our jobs as they stand. It is hard to juggle your life around your shifts; we work antisocial hours, but that's across the board for every single shift worker. It's tough and it takes a toll on you – you miss people's birthdays and weddings and things you'd like to go to, because they fall on days you're working, and you just cannot do anything about it.

"But that's what we take on when we sign our contracts [in exchange for 36-hour weeks and 43 days of holiday a year]. We join the company knowing that that is what our job entails." She said the salary is fair.

She also acknowledged that the strike has caused huge disruption: "We've caused a massive shutdown. There have been no trains today. It stops the whole of London, it's a right pain for everyone to get to work." But, she said, other workers would do the same. "I think if everyone had the union, they'd use their union."

The portrayal of tube workers as greedy has hurt, Roberts said.

Stefan Rousseau / PA

"It makes me angry," she said. "There have been a lot of things said, and I try not to look at them. You sit there and you see that these people have this opinion of you, when really all we're trying to get across is the fact that this strike is not about pay, it's not about money, we're not being greedy.

"We just want fair working conditions. And I don't think that's too much to ask for. And I think the public should get behind us and support us. It's about solidarity, today."

But in general, tube drivers are in favour of the 24-hour plans. None of the striking unions are opposed to them.

Rick Findler / PA

"I think it's fantastic," Roberts said. As well as late-night drinkers, "it's also going to benefit a lot of shift workers, night cleaners, bar staff, people who work the early hours of the morning, that sort of thing. I'm not opposed to it at all, I think it's great, and I think that's the opinion across the board – no one's opposed to it, we'd all like to see it happen.

"I'm not opposed to night tube in any way. I think it's a fantastic idea. But all we're after is something that is fair for us."

Tom Chivers is a science writer for BuzzFeed and is based in London.

Contact Tom Chivers at tom.chivers@buzzfeed.com.

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