New strike announced on the Elizabeth line in dispute over pay

The first anniversary of the opening of the Elizabeth line will be marked by a strike that could force part of the line to close.

The TSSA union announced on Tuesday that its members are due to walk out for the second time this year in a battle to secure pay parity with other workers on the £20bn line.

The union has chosen to take action on Wednesday May 24 – a year to the day the line, which has become the best-used railway in the UK , first opened to passengers under central London.

A strike by the TSSA and Prospect unions on January 12 forced the closure of the central section of the line, between Paddington and Abbey Wood.

The strike will include dozens of key operational staff who control the line’s signalling and safety systems.

It will come just three days after the final stage in the opening of the line. On Sunday May 21 the peak hours frequencies will increase to 24 trains an hour in central London and there will be direct trains to and from Heathrow from the line’s Essex branch, which runs to Shenfield via Stratford.

The TSSA says that line managers who work for Rail for London Infrastructure (RfLI), the Transport for London subsidiary that oversees the line, are paid “tens of thousands of pounds less” than colleagues doing similar jobs on other TfL services, such as the Tube and DLR.

TSSA organising director Mel Taylor said: “We’ve been in talks with management for almost a year now, yet the majority of our members have been offered an uplift of just over one per cent to make up for the huge pay differentials.

“Elizabeth Line staff work weekends, nights and even Christmas Day, operating the world’s only fully digital railway, but many earn less than two thirds of the salary paid to other TfL staff in similar roles. Our members don’t want to have to take strike action, but they’ve had enough.”

The walkout will be followed by “action short of a strike”, involving an overtime ban and removal of good will, from May 27 to June 4. This will mean managers will refuse to work rest days or cover for absent colleagues.

TfL has made a two-year offer of a four per cent increase for 2022 and a 4.4 per cent increase for2023.

It says that, in practice, individual salaries will increased above this rate as a result of a “benchmarking exercise” undertaken with the involvement of TSSA, which compares pay rates against the salaries of other workers.

Howard Smith, director of the Elizabeth line, said: “Strikes are bad news for everyone, and we have worked with the TSSA to try to resolve this dispute, including undertaking a separate benchmarking exercise to review the competitiveness of the salary ranges on offer.

“We urge them to continue to work with us rather than resorting to industrial action.”

The Elizabeth line is used for more than three million journeys a wee and now accounts for one in six UK rail passengers.

In March, it was announced that the Elizabeth line had carried 125m passengers in its first 10 months.

The Elizabeth line often comes to the rescue of Londoners during Tube strikes. The TSSA action is separate to that being taken by the RMT on pensions and working practices.

The RMT is currently reballoting its 10,000 Tube members on renewing its strike “mandate” for another six months. The ballot result is due from May 23. No new Tube strike dates have been announced to date.