Tube strikes: Aslef drivers now demand 12% pay rise after Sadiq Khan finds £30m to avert week-long walkouts

Tube drivers on Monday demanded a 12% pay rise after Sadiq Khan decided to use £30m of taxpayers’ cash to avert a week of strikes on the London Underground.

Aslef, which represents the majority of Tube drivers, said the mayor “had found the magic money tree and our members expect to share the fruit”.

Mr Khan’s unprecedented intervention on Sunday saw the RMT, which represents about 10,000 Tube staff, call off walkouts that would have effectively shut the Underground until Friday.

But the mayor’s decision to use unspecified City Hall funds to enable pay negotiations to restart this week had the immediate impact of prompting Aslef – which had already agreed to accept a five per cent increase – to demand more cash.

Finn Brennan, Aslef’s London organiser, told the Standard: “It means negotiations start afresh and, as there is more money on the table, we now want our original claim for an RPI+ pay rise of around 12 per cent (based on last February’s RPI rate) and a cut in working hours to be met in full.”

Mayoral sources said Mr Khan decided to intervene after being told by business and tourism leaders of the damaging impact of a week-long strike on the London economy and the post-Christmas return to work.

This allowed the RMT, which had ordered members working in different departments to strike on different days to cause maximum chaos, to claim victory.

Jared Wood, the RMT’s London regional organiser, said: “The threat of action over a week has delivered.”

He said: “Make no mistake, £30m is a significant increase that will allow us to address the key issues raised by the RMT.

“We will now seek to conclude negotiations as soon as possible and to resolve the issues of help for the lowest paid and the failure to inflate the [pay] bands as a priority.”

City Hall was unable to say how Mr Khan, who faces re-election in less than four months, had found the £30m – or how it would be spent.

Details are expected to emerge when the mayor publishes his draft budget next week. But Tory critics warned Mr Khan was now at risk of being “blackmailed” by the Tube unions. The TSSA union has become the latest union to threaten strike action over pay.

Tory mayoral candidate Susan Hall said: "Sadiq Khan is clearly very worried about his election prospects if he's willing to throw taxpayers' money at the unions to delay these strikes.”

She pledged a “firm but fair approach to the unions, securing the best deal for commuters, taxpayers and workers”.

Keith Prince, the Tory transport spokesman on the London Assembly, said: “It’s obviously good to avoid strikes, but Sadiq Khan is teaching the transport unions that he’ll give in to their blackmail and find extra money and that is massively damaging for London.”

The RMT indicated that the £30m – which is worth about £1,800 per Tube worker – would not be used to increase the headline offer of five per cent.

Instead, it wants the lowest-paid Tube staff to receive a “lump sum” pay rise of up to £5,000 and for pay bands to be unfrozen.

Tube drivers currently earn a fixed salary of £63,901 – but some station staff earn about half that amount.

Transport for London commissioner Andy Lord had insisted on many occasions that five per cent was its “full and final offer”. TfL sources said this remained the case. TfL only discovered yesterday that Mr Khan had been able to find extra cash in a bid to end the dispute.

Mr Khan said: “This shows what can be achieved by engaging and working with trade unions and transport staff rather than working against them.”

On Monday afternoon, the TSSA union called on TfL to "get back round the table" and deliver a "seriously improved offer".

General secretary Maryam Eslamdoust said: “We are still ready to ballot for industrial action - our members are ballot ready and prepared to do whatever is necessary to ensure they get a fair deal.

“Only urgent talks – and a seriously improved offer which takes into account the cost-of-living crisis – will mean industrial action can be avoided.

“It is now up to London Underground, together we can strike a deal, or we will be forced to move to sustained industrial action”.