Union chiefs have warned thousands of London Underground staff that a new smartcard ticketing system could cost them their jobs.
A leaflet from transport workers union the RMT entitled 'More Jobs Under Threat' suggests a darker side to LT's claims that the Prestige smartcard scheme will bring significant cost savings and fraud reduction.
The RMT leaflet states bleakly that "Prestige?.is likely to lead to thousands of booking office staff jobs being lost".
However, London Transport flatly denied there was any risk of job losses because of the Prestige project.
"No jobs will be lost as a result of the award of a contract to Transys. On the contrary, the installation of the new equipment proposed will result in additional work in the long term," said an LT spokesperson.
London Transport is currently completing the award of the #180 million, 17-year Private Finance Initiative contract to Transys, a consortium that includes EDS and ICL - the only one to complete the bidding process. Final details of the contract are expected to be signed off early in 1998, a year late.
LT and Transys representatives have met with Underground staff to reassure them that jobs are safe and their existing expertise is invaluable. Already 124 London Transport staff are slated to transfer to the consortium under TUPE regulations.
Prestige is intended to begin operation before 2000, replacing existing ticketing equipment with far more automated technology using smartcards and radio readers, as well as brand new retail ticketing terminals for ticket offices and over 2,000 retail outlets.
LT believes that the new ticketing system will significantly increase efficiency for staff, but the union remains sceptical as to what will happen to many ticket office, maintenance and barrier staff once the new, highly automated systems are in place.
"Whilst the positions of staff will not be immediately affected it only takes a cursory glance [at the proposals] to realise the massive impact these changes will have on all staff whose employment is related to ticket sales and revenue collection," warned a union management report.
A spokesman for the union insisted they were not being luddites, but wanted to highlight the threat to jobs.
"We are not trying to pretend that this new technology cannot happen. Our concern is protecting jobs when it does," he said.
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