London Tube strike: West end chiefs plead with union to call off action

·3-min read

West End chiefs have pleaded with the RMT to call off the longest strike in Tube history to help businesses recover from the pandemic.

Union bosses confirmed Thursday that six months of weekend walk-outs on the Victoria and Central lines in protest at the rosters used to staff the Night Tube would start on Friday evening.

This is a resumption of action that began last November, in the run-up to Christmas. The latest strikes will see Tube drivers belonging to the RMT refusing to clock in from 8.30pm each Friday and Saturday night, until 4.29am the following morning, until June 17.

Transport for London warned there could be “severe disruption” to both lines from 7pm each evening. It aims to keep services – including the Night Tube and Night Overground - running, though delays are likely.

Jace Tyrrell, chief executive at New West End Company, which represents traders in Oxford Street and Regent Street, said: “The proposed six month strike action threatens the West End’s night-time economy at a critical point when many businesses will be looking to recover from the impact of the pandemic.

“We strongly encourage RMT to call off these strikes in order to give viable hospitality businesses in the capital the best possible chance of survival.”

The RMT said it was stepping up action against staffing rotas it fears will “wreck” the work-life balance of drivers.

This could be followed by network-wide action, potentially involving other unions, in protest at Transport for London’s plans to axe up to 600 posts from the Underground in a bid to save cash.

A RMT strike ballot closes on Monday, with the result due to be announced later that day.

The RMT also said its action in protest at the changes to the Night Tube rosters could be extended to other lines.

TfL has scrapped the 200 part-time Night Tube drivers’ posts and requires drivers who work on the “day” Tube to do up to four Night Tube shifts a year.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “As the New Year gets under way our battle for workplace justice for Tube staff steps up a gear with a new phase of action running from tomorrow through to the summer.

“If London Underground and the Mayor thought this fight for progressive and family-friendly working practices was going away they need to think again.

“It’s the failure of London Underground and Sadiq Khan to address the grievances at the heart of the dispute that leaves us no option but to confirm the programme of action goes ahead as planned.

“RMT has repeatedly put forward cost neutral proposals that would repair the damage unleashed by deleting 200 driver posts and which would dig LU out of this mess.

“They have ignored us and that approach will have severe consequences for Londoners through to the summer. We remain available for further talks.”

TfL said the changes to the Night Tube rosters had not resulted in any job losses and called on the RMT to return to talks to resolve the “unnecessary” dispute.

Andy Lord, managing director of London Underground, said: “We’re disappointed that, once again, the RMT is continuing to push for strike action that is likely to cause further unnecessary disruption. We’re calling on the RMT to join us for talks so we can work together to resolve this dispute around roster changes, which mean no job losses and greater flexibility for drivers.

“If these six months of action do go ahead, we will continue to operate as regular a service as possible. However, customers are advised to check before they travel and use buses to complete their journeys where required. I apologise to them for the impact this unnecessary action will have on their journeys.”

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No date has been set for the reopening of the Night Tube on the Northern, Piccadilly and Jubilee lines.

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