LONDON, England – Another strike will bring London Underground network to a halt this week after unions unanimously rejected an offer made on Friday by Tube bosses.
Unions said they were left with no choice but to take industrial action for 24 hours from Wednesday evening, spelling misery for commuters by completely closing the capital’s tube network on Thursday.
The strike, the second in a month, was called in a dispute over terms and conditions for the introduction of 24-hour train services on weekends from September.
While unions do not oppose all-night running, they are seeking guarantees about the number of weekend nightshifts drivers and other staff will be forced to work.
Finn Brennan, London district organizer for Aslef, the drivers’ union, said they had consulted members across every line and depot: “The main concern is the complete lack of firm commitments on work-life balance for train drivers. We would be prepared to continue discussions to try to find common ground, but senior management are insistent that new rosters will be issued this week so that the Night Tube starts on 12 September.
“This leaves us with no other choice than to go ahead with strike action from 21.30 on Wednesday. We genuinely regret the disruption this will cause.”
London Underground has said most drivers would not be required to do more than a few additional weekend nightshifts.
The RMT rejected the proposed deal, warning that it had concerns over how the proposed Night Tube service would impact the network, adding that weekday commuters could pay a “heavy price” in terms of safety, reliability and quality without weekend downtime. It accused the mayor, Boris Johnson, of creating a vanity scheme “without any understanding of how the railway runs in reality”.
The union’s general secretary Mick Cash said RMT negotiators remained available for talks, but added: “The Night Tube plan has been botched from the off. The basics haven’t been done and those who will pay for this shambles will not only be our members but the London daily travelling public who cough up a fortune and who will find their safety and the reliability of the service compromised from 12 September onwards.”
Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA, said the union had rejected the offer not on pay grounds but over the work-life balance of his members, as well as safety issues. He said: “There are a number of stations where there will be one member of staff on duty during the middle of the night. With crowds of potential drunks to deal with, we think that could be an accident waiting to happen.”
He said the union remained available for discussions “anywhere at any time”.
Unite, which represents a small minority of tube staff, has also dismissed the offer.
Talks at Acas may restart but would now appear unlikely to avert the planned strike. The dispute could yet threaten the launch of the new Night Tube, scheduled for 12 September.
Transport for London is advising passengers to complete their journeys by 6.30pm on Wednesday and avoid travelling at peak times on Thursday if possible.
TfL will run extra bus and river services to help people get around, but expects all public transport and roads to be much busier than usual. Additional cycle hire docking stations will be operated in central London. The DLR, London Overground, trams and national rail services will run as normal, but will be much busier than usual.
Steve Griffiths, London Underground’s chief operating officer, said: “Our customers are advised to check the TfL website for the latest information as we seek to resolve the dispute and to keep London moving should the unions go ahead with their action.”
In a separate dispute, RMT members on First Great Western will take renewed strike action including a three-day stoppage over the August bank holiday weekend, starting 29 August.