Friday's Tube strike cancelled but London Marathon walkout is still on

Feb 11, 2016

RMT calls off 24-hour action after London Underground promises to hold safety review into track access

Oli Scarff

Friday's 24-hour Tube strike has been called off, but further industrial action remains in place, including a walkout during this year's London Marathon.

Around 1,500 London Underground maintenance workers were due to down tools from 6.30am tomorrow in a row over safety, with the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union claiming potentially "lethal" changes were being made to the way workers access the track.

The union has now called off the action after receiving confirmation that any changes would be put on hold for two weeks to allow for a comprehensive safety review.

It is the second strike to be cancelled in just a week. A 48-hour walkout planned for last weekend was suspended at the last minute.

Mick Cash, the RMT general secretary, said: "The hard work of RMT's negotiating team, backed by a determined and rock-solid workforce, has enabled us to secure a two-week block on these track access changes to allow for a comprehensive safety review prior to a return to [the conciliation service] Acas."

He added: "The dispute remains live, further strike action remains in place from early March and action short of a strike also remains in force.

"The union has made itself available for the safety review and the continuing talks and we remain determined to secure a long-term agreement that protects the safety culture across London Underground."

Steve Griffiths, the chief operating officer at London Underground said: "I welcome the RMT's decision to suspend this action to allow for further talks to take place.

"Safety is always our top priority and we have robust and comprehensive procedures in place to ensure that any staff working on the track are kept safe."

A further 500 track patrol staff are still set to walk out tomorrow in a separate dispute about the "casualisation" of their jobs by private contractors. This is not thought likely to disrupt Tube services.

When are the next Tube strikes?

Plans for further strike action remains in place from March to June:

12-hour strike from 6.30am on Sunday 6 March

24-hour strike from 6.30am on Friday 25 March

24-hour strike from 6.30am on Sunday 27 March

12-hour strike from 6.30am on Sunday 24 April

12-hour strike from 6.30am on Sunday 15 May

12-hour strike from 6.30am on Sunday 12 June

The April strike would coincide with the London Marathon, which could pose difficulties for runners and spectators travelling in and out of the city. As major stretches of roads are closed for the 26-mile race, more people rely on the Tube than buses to travel around.

How will commuters be affected?

Transport for London (TfL) has not given any information about what might happen if the other strikes go ahead. In the past, some Underground stations have been closed and TfL has put on extra buses and bikes, with Docklands Light Railway (DLR), Overground, Thames Clipperboat and National Rail running as normal.

On the plus side, a separate dispute over plans for the new Night Tube service appears to be over, with RMT urging its 10,000 members to accept a deal put forward by their employers.

Tube strikes: RMT announces deal over Night Tube

4 February 2015

RMT has announced it will advise its 10,000 members to accept a pay and conditions deal for the Night Tube service, which has been at the heart of ongoing disputes and industrial action.

Its acceptance would "clear a big hurdle for the service which was due to begin last September", says the BBC.

However, the offer has been turned down by Unite, which represents engineering staff, and two other unions are still undecided.

RMT is also planning a 48-hour strike this weekend over separate ticket office closures and new rosters under the Fit for the Future proposal.

Mick Cash, the union's general secretary, has urged RMT members to support the strike so the message is "heard loud and clear" by London Underground and the travelling public.

He added that their demands are "simple", listing them as: "No imposed rosters, no short notice duty changes on cover weeks and no imposed new framework agreement."

Steve Griffiths, the chief operating officer of London Underground, insists the organisation has delivered on every commitment made to staff, including no compulsory redundancies, and protection for work/life balance.

"Around 900 station staff will be promoted or move from fixed-term contracts to permanent roles," he said. "There is clearly absolutely no basis whatsoever for this strike threat."

Crunch talks are being held to try to avert the strike, with station staff warned that they will lose a £500 bonus for taking part.

"No one – not even the union members – seriously believes that the action will achieve a darned thing," says London Mayor Boris Johnson. "The strike promises to be nothing more than a pointless inconvenience."

As for the planned closures, travellers are accustomed to automatic ticketing and old offices can serve as shops that will pay rents to TfL, adds the outgoing Mayor: "They will be of considerably more value to passengers than keeping staff trapped behind plate glass."

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Johnson praised his potential Conservative successor Zac Goldsmith for also condemning the strike, but questioned why Labour's mayoral candidate, Sadiq Khan, would not denounce the industrial action. "Why won't he just say unequivocally, loud and clear, that the RMT leadership is wrong to put its members through this madness – not to mention the travelling public?" he asks.

Khan has previously told Johnson that Tube strikes have doubled under his leadership, adding: "We need a Labour mayor to reduce strikes."

The debate became heated this morning, when Steve Hedley, the assistant general secretary of the RMT, told LBC Radio that Conservative ministers should be "taken out and shot" because their financial cuts are "killing people every week".

He was scolded by presenter Shelagh Fogarty, who told him: "It is not a part of adult, mature negotiation to speak the way you just spoke."

Tube strike called off but February walk-outs still on the cards

26 January

Unions have called off the 24-hour Tube strike due to begin today, but commuters have been warned to expect disruption in the coming weeks.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) Workers' Union suspended the walk-out yesterday, after receiving a new offer from London Underground in the ongoing dispute over pay, conditions and the new Night Tube service.

"RMT's executive has agreed to suspend tomorrow's action over pay and Night Tube to allow for further consideration and consultation on the current offer," said general secretary Mick Cash.

Other unions, including Aslef and Unite, had already called off strike action to allow for further negotiations.

However, two more 24-hour walk-outs have been scheduled for 15 February and 17 February.

"The union makes it clear that we remain in dispute and the strike action scheduled for February remains on," added Cash.

RMT is also taking part in a week of action, starting from 7 February, over the issue of station staffing. The exact nature of what this will involve has yet to be set out, says the Evening Standard.

It coincides with a week of action beginning the next day organised by the Trades Union Congress in protest against the Trade Union Bill. Transport is seen as one of the key sectors that the Government is trying to target with the legislation, which the TUC argues threatens workplace rights, including the right to strike.

The TUC plans to "showcase the amazing work unions do" and raise awareness of the proposed legislation.

Tube strike: unions set dates  for three days of action

12 January

London Underground unions have announced three 24-hour Tube strikes beginning at the end of this month as disputes over pay and the new Night Tube service continue.

The first day of industrial will begin on Tuesday 26 January, with two others on Monday 15 February and Wednesday 17 February.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) Workers' Union, Aslef and Unite are angry about the way London Underground has attempted to introduce the new 24-hour weekend Tube service, which had been due to start last September.

"RMT members are furious at the bodged introduction of the Mayor's Night Tube plans and the fact that they have been tied in with a pay deal that has left our members dangling on a string and out of pocket since April last year," said Mick Cash, RMT's general secretary.

He added that RMT supported the principle of a "properly worked-out Night Tube service" agreed on by the unions, but said the "abject failure to work through the detail has led to a comprehensive breakdown in the negotiations and has forced us to name a programme of further industrial action".

London Underground announced plans in November to hire part-time drivers to staff the Night Tube.

However, Finn Brennan, district organiser for the drivers' union Aslef, said the service was unlikely to go ahead unless Transport for London consulted with his union about how the part-time drivers might be rostered and how they would "interact" with existing staff.

"There will be more industrial action," he told the Financial Times. "It's no good saying that we'll offer night service on Friday and Saturday night if there's no daytime service."

London Mayor Boris Johnson has called the decision to go on strike "unbelievable", saying: "It is clear that they not only want to prevent their own members from doing these jobs, they want to stop anyone else from doing them."

Saying there had been around 6,400 applications for the 200 part-time driver roles, he added that "in all logic" Aslef leaders should let the new arrangements go ahead as it will "do nothing to affect the existing work-life balance of their members".

Tube Strike: fresh walkouts loom over Night Tube pay row

07 January

Tube strikes could take place as early as mid-February if London Underground staff vote for industrial action later this month.

RMT, the largest of the Tube unions, has predicted overwhelming support for industrial action over the new Night Tube, which was initially due to launch last September.

The 24-hour weekend service has been delayed as talks between staff and bosses have failed to make progress.

The result of a ballot of 1,300 workers will be announced at the end of this month.

"The new staff to be balloted work for Tube Lines, the wholly owned subsidiary company of LU, responsible for maintenance and upgrade work on the Piccadilly, Northern and Jubilee lines which, together with the Central and Victoria lines, will form the Friday and Saturday Night Tube operation – whenever it eventually starts," explains the Evening Standard.

The threat of further strikes over the Night Tube has "dramatically increased", says the newspaper, adding that "walkouts could take place from about the middle of next month".

RMT leader Mick Cash said his representatives had rejected a deal on pay as "wholly unsatisfactory" and added that staff who are "expected to keep the railway running must be respected and their efforts properly rewarded".

London Underground's chief operating officer Steve Griffiths confirmed that 180 part-time drivers are being employed to run the Night Tube, a pledge first made in November.

"Recruiting part-time drivers will guarantee that no current driver will have to work the Night Tube unless they choose to do so," he said.

"We are now focused on the recruitment and training of these drivers in order to deliver the Night Tube for London as quickly as possible."

Finn Brennan, from the Tube drivers' union Aslef, said the recruitment campaign had begun without an agreement on the terms and conditions under which the new employees would work.

"If London Underground want to avoid more industrial action, I urge them to sit down with us now for face-to-face talks to resolve this dispute," he said. "If they are not prepared to do so then more strike action seems the only option left to us."

Night Tube: why is it delayed and when is it coming to London? 

14 December 2015

One in twenty Londoners believes the capital's Night Tube will never see the light of day, according to a recent survey.

The TotalJobs survey on Londoners' perceptions of the Night Tube shows that the vast majority - 78 per cent, of those polled - believe that a 24-hour Tube service would be "beneficial to London", but just one in three believes the Night Tube will come into operation on its revised start date of March 2016.

The implementation of the Night Tube has hit the buffers on numerous occasions since London Mayor Boris Johnson's first claimed it would begin on 12 September this year and then said it would start in November.

So why is it delayed? When is it coming? And who do Londoners blame for the delay?

Why is it delayed?

Since the Night Tube was announced in November 2013, the RMT union and the tube drivers' union Aslef have consistently opposed the plans due to the effect on London Underground workers' work-life balance. The most recent offer from London Underground has suggested hiring part-time workers to fill the gap.

"We have listened to union feedback and have made absolute guarantees which mean no existing driver will have to work the Night Tube, unless they choose to do so. Instead we will hire part-time train drivers specifically to run the service," executive chief operating officer Steve Griffiths said.

But the unions feel the offer "does not include enough detail on how the new staff will be used and the type of contracts they will have", says City AM

When is it coming?

The revised estimate is March 2016, but that appears to be mainly guesswork on behalf of Transport for London. When Boris Johnson was asked to provide a date for the introduction of the 24-hour Tube last month, he told the LBC Radio: "This is something that the city of London has done without for 150 years.

"What I won't do is pay an unreasonable price for it, which Londoners would feel in their fares."

A union source confirmed to the International Business Times that March 2016 was the new slated start date but warned the election of a new London mayor in May 2016 could mean the Night Tube plan "withers on the vine" due to a lack of political appetite to push it through.

Who do Londoners blame?

"The survey found that most Londoners blame the unions for the delays," says City AM's Clara Guibourg. "Some 56 per cent think the unions are to blame. Another quarter put the blame at TfL's feet, while 16 per cent say that, actually, it's all Boris's fault."

The unions say they want a 24-hour Tube but not at the cost of their members, while London Underground claims it will not be held to ransom by the unions' "unreasonable demands".

DLR strike: Tube services will be 'packed' amid RMT walkout

03 November

Tube services in east London are likely to be "busier than normal" as workers on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) take part in a 48-hour strike.

Around 300,000 people who normally use the DLR each day are expected to "flood" the Jubilee, Central, District, Hammersmith & City and London Overground lines, says the Evening Standard.

Even more people could be travelling in the area because of a World Travel Market expo at the ExCeL at Royal Victoria Dock.

"In particular, DLR interchanges Canning Town, Bank, Stratford, Canary Wharf, Canada Water, West Ham and Shadwell are set to be packed as Square Mile workers seek alternative routes," says the newspaper.

The industrial action, the first of its kind in the network's three-decade history, began at 4am this morning and is due to continue until Thursday morning.

The strike was called by the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers' Union (RMT) after it failed to reach a deal over working conditions with KeolisAmey Docklands.

Yesterday, RMT general secretary Mick Cash said the responsibility for the "massive disruption" would be "entirely down to the aggressive and bullying attitude of the new KAD management who don't seem to understand the basic principles of industrial relations".

However, Kevin Thomas, managing director of KeolisAmey Docklands, claimed RMT was "intent on proceeding with strike action rather than seeking resolution to the issues".

He said it was clear from recent meetings with RMT representatives that "all of the issues they have raised can be resolved". Therefore, it is "extremely frustrating that RMT appear intent on proceeding with strike action rather than seeking resolution to the issues", he said.

Transport for London (TfL) has put on extra buses on existing bus routes close to the DLR. "Other TfL services are operating but will be busier than normal particularly at key interchanges with the DLR network," said TfL's DLR boss Rory O'Neill. "We ask customers to consider avoiding the busiest times if they can."

Night Tube could be delayed until 2016, claim unions

14 October

Transport trade unions believe London's Night Tube service could be delayed until next year after the latest talks with Underground bosses ended in deadlock.

The new 24-hour weekend service was originally due to begin on 12 September, but was postponed due to an ongoing dispute between the unions and London Underground chiefs over staff pay and conditions.

A senior union source told the Evening Standard: "The talks have been crawling along anyway – and now they have stopped. Unless London Underground dramatically improves its offer – and there is no sign of that happening – then there is little chance of [the] Night Tube happening this year."

The newspaper says a delay until next year will cost London's businesses, restaurants and theatres "tens of millions of pounds".

Finn Brennan, Aslef union organiser on London Underground, claimed the unions had put forward a number of proposals to resolve the dispute, but that London Underground had rejected them all.

"Most disappointingly of all they have decided to blackmail their own employees by refusing to make a pay offer unless staff agree to worsen their working conditions," he said.

"That is not something we are prepared to accept. Underground management have completely mishandled these negotiations. They have wasted every opportunity for a settlement and seem to have been determined to provoke confrontation rather than resolution."

The unions, which also include TSSA, the RMT and Unite, are unhappy about the work rosters and pay proposals for the new service.

However, a TfL spokesman told IBTimes UK that Underground bosses are hoping to find a resolution and are still working towards an autumn launch.

In a separate dispute, RMT has ordered a strike ballot among train drivers on the Piccadilly line – the results of which will be announced next week.

Tube strike: why you should be thankful for transport walkouts

15 September

Public transport strikes produce a "net economic benefit" and might even save some travellers around £100 a year, according to surprising new research from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

Commuters have faced much disruption over the summer, with walkouts on the national railway networks and London Underground.

But according to researchers, travellers might actually benefit from the strikes as they are forced to find alternative ways to work. The study found that one in 20 people find "superior journeys" that are quicker and less expensive than their normal commute.

"For the small fraction of commuters who found a better route, when multiplied over a longer period of time, the benefit to them actually outweighs the inconvenience suffered by many more," said Dr Shaun Larcom, a co-author of the study, from the department of land economy at Cambridge. "The net gains came from the disruption itself."

Larcom and his colleagues examined the effect of the 48-hour London Underground strike by RMT union members in February 2014, when more than half of the capital's Tube stations were closed.

Using 20 days of anonymised Oyster card data, the researchers analysed more than 200 million entry and exit readings for London's transport system to assess travel patterns before and after the strike.

They found that five per cent of commuters stuck with their new route once the strike was over, reports The Times.

The Oxbridge academics suggested that the strike had encouraged people to experiment with different Tube lines, which can vary in speed, and forced passengers above ground, where many discovered quicker alternatives. They believe this might be because of flaws in the Tube map, which shows a distorted view of distances between Tube stops in the capital.

Larcom said the findings seem to indicate that a "decent proportion of people are not optimising their journey" and that individuals tend to "under-experiment" with their route on normal days.

Tube strikes suspended as retailers count the cost of summer standstill

7 September

London Underground strikes due to take place this week have been suspended,but commuters have been warned that the dispute is not yet over.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union has suspended two 24-hour strikes, due to begin on 8 and 10 September, after it was announced that the Night Tube would be postponed.

The union said the implementation of the new 24-hour weekend Tube service had been suspended "until we reach agreement" and said it would continue to negotiate with London Underground.

"However we remain in dispute and all industrial action called to not co-operate with Night Tube at local level, including modelling and trials, remains in place," it said.

RMT warned that if the negotiations "prove negative" then further industrial action will be organised so members can defend their agreements, pay and conditions.

Two 24-hour strikes were held in July and August, causing disruption for commuters and tourists attempting to travel around London, while another two strikes pencilled in for the end of August were called off at the last minute.

Unions have accused London Underground  bosses of drawing up "rosters from hell" for workers so it can go ahead with its Night Tube plans. RMT General Secretary Mick Cash warned that running Tube services with "fatigued and burnt-out staff" was a "recipe for disaster".

However, the employer says it has put forward a "very fair" offer and claims unions have simply been demanding more money.

A monthly bulletin by London Underground tube workers has claimed the September strikes were never actually on as "the usual text and email notifications for striking were not sent out", City AM reports.

The bulletin also questioned Union leaders' decision to postpone the strikes saying: "It is not clear what progress has been made to warrant this further suspension of action. We know that Night Tube has been postponed, but with management and the Mayor saying they still intend for it to start in the Autumn, it has not been postponed for long."

The uncertainty surrounding the Night Tube is also making it harder for unions, the workers claimed, as it "can drain the morale of members and make it harder to hold solid action when the union leaderships eventually feel that the time is right for it."

Retailers have also been counting the cost of the uncertainty, with The Telegraph reporting the number of shoppers in the capital and its suburbs "tumbled by 9.5 per cent in the first week of August".

Though the summer always brings a dip in fortunes for Britain's retailers, August's 24-hour strike was reportedly a large factor in this year's downturn. "A dip during August is always expected, with many people away on summer holiday, but not to the extent that we saw this month", Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos said.

Tube strikes still on as Night Tube delayed until 'later in autumn'

01 September

London Underground has confirmed that it will delay the new Night Tube until later in the autumn to allow time for more talks with unions.

The 24-hour weekend service was due to begin on 12 September on the Jubilee, Victoria and most of the Piccadilly, Central and Northern lines.

However, London Underground workers have been involved in an ongoing dispute about the new service. Unions staged two 24-hour Tube strikes in July and August, causing huge disruption for London commuters and tourists.

Another two Tube strikes, planned to take place across four days this week, were called off on Monday, but are now expected to take place on 8 and 10 September.

A new date for the launch of the Night Tube is yet to be announced, but London Underground expressed hope that it would be "later in the autumn", reports the BBC.

"Further to the progress made in recent days with the trade unions and the suspension of strike action, we believe we are not far from an agreement that protects the work-life balance of our employees and is affordable, sustainable and fair," said Nick Brown, London Underground's managing director.

"As such, we have decided to defer the introduction of Night Tube to allow more time for those talks to conclude. Our objective is to reach an agreement that ends this dispute and delivers the Night Tube for Londoners this autumn."

Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, the train drivers' union, welcomed the "common sense" decision, but criticised London Underground for initially trying to introduce the new service "without consultation, and without negotiation".

The FA has temporarily suspended ticket sales for the European Championships qualifier so that transport providers can ensure they can manage current ticket holders' journeys to the stadium on the night of the game.

The Evening Standard points out that there were "chaotic scenes" last November when an England Women's game clashed with planned works at Wembley Park tube. The capacity for the England v Germany match was capped at 55,000 because the tube station had to be closed, but almost 10,000 ticket holders were still unable to make it to the stadium on the day.

London Mayor Boris Johnson has put the Night Tube delay down to "Corbynmania". He told LBC radio that the unions were taking advantage of Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn's popularity to "make a political point".

He said: "What is really happening is the union leadership, particularly the RMT, feel that the country is being gripped by a sort of Corbynmania. They feel that everybody is going to the left and this is an opportunity to make a point to the awful Tory government that they don't accept trade union reform."

Tube strikes called off - but two more announced

24 August

Two 24-hour Tube strikes, which were expected to disrupt services for four consecutive days this week, have been called off by unions "as a gesture of good will".

The decision was taken in order to allow talks at the conciliation service Acas to continue.

However, the threat of further industrial action has not been lifted, and the unions involved in the dispute have proposed two new Tube strikes on 8 and 10 September.

"Leaders from the three unions involved in the proposed strike action, Unite, the RMT, and the TSSA, agreed to suspend the action following last-ditch talks with London Underground bosses at Acas," says the London Evening Standard.

The train drivers' union Aslef had already decided not to participate in this week's Tube strikes, which would have been the third and fourth of the summer.

Unite regional officer Hugh Roberts told the BBC that sufficient progress had been made to justify suspending industrial action, but he also spoke of "remaining sticking points".

No further detail about any progress has been released.

The dispute relates to the introduction of the Night Tube, a 24-hour service on key Underground lines due to begin on 12 September – two days after the second of the newly announced Tube strikes.

However, many commentators expect that the all-night service will now be delayed.

"The key question is: is the Night Tube going to go ahead on 12 September?" says the BBC's London transport correspondent Tom Edwards. "It doesn't look too hopeful at the moment."

  

What is the row about? 

The long-running dispute was triggered by the decision to launch a 24-hour weekend service on several Tube lines beginning in September this year. Job cuts and a lack of proper consultation have also contributed to the row. Unions accuse bosses of drawing up "rosters from hell" to plug the staffing gaps in the Night Tube plans which will affect employees' work-life balance and force the public to pay in terms of safety, reliability and quality. “Running tube services with fatigued and burnt-out staff is a recipe for disaster," says RMT General Secretary Mick Cash.

Bosses contradict these claims, with managing director Nick Brown saying the unions were simply demanding more money. London Underground says it has put forward a "very fair" revised offer to unions which includes a pay rise for all Tube staff and bonuses for those working on the night service as well as a guarantee that employees will not be required to work anymore weekends than they currently do.   “You can’t have London being held to ransom forever," Transport for London's interim commissioner Mike Brown told the Evening Standard."We will bring in these changes."

 

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No rail service of any sort west of Exeter, so England cut off from Cornwall and likely to be for weeks; but that is obviously much less important than a few people having to get a bus rather than the tube in that London...

Economically it is.