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Fresh Night Tube strike dates renew dispute with Whitehall

Another London Underground driver strike is on the horizon as Aslef union leaders are set to meet today to decide whether to press on with three 24-hour walkouts.

Aslef executives are expected to agree to stage day-long strikes, the latest in a string of industrial action, on 27 January, 15 February and 17 February from 9.15pm.

Despite the Underground’s revised four-year pay offer and Transport for London’s (TfL’s) commitment to hire at least 180 part-time staff , unions still believe plans are “not up to their expectations”.

RMT began balloting Tube Lines staff for strike action last week after they received an identical pay offer as that made to London Underground staff, which has been consistently rejected over the last year.

Over the weekend, Aslef chief Finn Brennan said the union’s negotiating team last met London Underground at Acas on 10 November, but claimed management “refused to talk to us despite repeated requests”.

“Our members have been extremely patient; they have waited for more than three and half years for promised talks on improving work-life balance. There is still no indication when they will receive the pay rise that was due last April,” he said.

“We want to see an all-night service introduced and we are not opposed to the recruitment of part-time staff. But we will not accept a zero-hours culture being introduced and working conditions undermined.

“We are ready to talk at any time to finally resolve this dispute. It is time for the mayor of London and his team at TfL to stop the political posturing and engage with us to stop London suffering more disruption.”

But London mayor Boris Johnson MP has reacted angrily to the fresh strike threats, arguing in a strong-worded statement that it is “unbelievable” that Aslef leaders are contemplating more industrial action.

“They were offered excellent terms and conditions for their members to deliver the Night Tube,” he said.

“They turned those down without ever properly consulting their membership. They claimed – falsely – that the Night Tube would badly affect the ‘work-life balance’ of staff. They held a series of strikes in pursuit of outrageous demands. They used the opportunity of the talks over the Night Tube to try to impose a new four-day week, which would have been completely unaffordable for TfL and for London's farepayers.”

He continued: “"In recent weeks LU has advertised for 200 new part-time drivers. Managers have been overwhelmed by the response. There have been roughly 6,400 applications. In all logic, Aslef's leadership should simply let this go ahead.

“But 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. This is a sickening and cynical display of dog-in-the-mangerism.

“If the strike goes ahead, it will hit many London Underground workers who do not necessarily support the action, and it will cost the strikers in lost pay. It will inconvenience the travelling public and it will do absolutely nothing to stop the progress towards the Night Tube.

“When the new part-time work-force is ready, they will deliver the service. London will get the 24-hour night service it needs, with or without the help of Aslef.”

TSSA’s leader, Manuel Cortes, accused Johnson of what he called “politically motivated smearing of the unions”, reminding the mayor that he had claimed, just last month, that the Night Tube was “no longer a priority”.

Even transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin MP commented this time, accusing “selfish and irresponsible union fat cats” of threatening disruption just to enjoy a four-day week.

“A 24-hour Tube will create jobs and allow a major economic boost for London – it's an idea whose time has come,” he said. “Aslef want to hold back progress for a set of totally unreasonable demands.”

Meanwhile, an RMT spokesman said the union’s executive will be taking a report from its London regional organiser on the total breakdown of negotiations over Night Tube pay issued at a meeting today.

The report will include several recommendations for action in support of its members in the dispute, with any final decisions up to the group’s executive leadership.

UPDATE 3.00pm

RMT has confirmed that it will be striking across all grades from 6.30pm on 26 January, 15 February and 17 February. 

The union's general secretary, Mick Cash, said: "RMT supports the principle of a properly worked out Night Tube service introduced through agreement with the unions but 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."

UPDATE 3.30pm

Aslef's executive also confirm that the union will be staging three 24-hour strikes in January and February.

(Top image c. Tim Ireland, PA Images)


Kevin R   11/01/2016 at 15:58

Driverless trains please, lets finish the union parasites off.

Anon   13/01/2016 at 14:19

You can't have driverless trains on the Underground. There needs to be driver in the train who can interact with the passengers. You only have to be a passenger on a tube in the rush hour to hear the frequent driver requests to passengers to avoid blocking the doors otherwise the train will not leave the station. If these requests came from an automatic system they would not get the response a driver gets and train delays would increase. Signal upgrades are ailed at improving the capacity for more frequent trains. Driverless trains will counteract this and the investment in the upgrades will be wasted.

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