Posted 11th January 2016 | 1 Comment

War of words over Underground strike threat

A MAJOR rail union is considering whether to stage three days of Underground strikes in the continuing dispute over Night Tube in London. The all-night deep tube line services on Fridays and Saturdays should have started in September, but the launch has been delayed because of union opposition. London Underground has labelled the latest strike call as 'absurd'.

If walkouts by Aslef members went ahead there would be three 24-hour strikes, each starting at about 21.00, on 27 January and then 15 and 17 February.

A pay deal is already on the table, and London Underground has issued assurances about 'work life balance', with part time train operators being recruited to help run Friday and Saturday night services on the deep tube lines.

But there still appears to be more work to be done closing the terms and conditions gap which remains.

Finn Brennan of Aslef said: "We genuinely regret the inconvenience that will be caused by any action but the behaviour of London Underground's senior management team have left us with no other choice.

"Our negotiating team last met London Underground at Acas on 10 November and since then they have 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.

"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. Aslef wants a fair deal for existing staff and for new employees.

"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."

London Underground has described the latest strike calls as 'absurd'. Chief operating officer Steve Griffiths said: "These latest threats to London show that the ASLEF leadership is trying everything to stop the Night Tube - a service which will mean easier night-time journeys for our customers, a boost to the economy of £360 million, and the creation of around 700 new jobs at London Underground.

“Our four year pay offer is extremely fair. As a result of hiring new drivers, who will be on permanent, part-time contracts with the same rates of pay and the same benefits as existing drivers, we’ve made absolute guarantees that no current driver will have to work the Night Tube unless they want to. This total protection of work-life balance is precisely what ASLEF leaders asked for, so it is astonishing that they are now once again threatening strike action.

“The truth is that they are making excessive demands for more money, fewer hours and a four day week and expect fare and tax payers to pick up the bill. That is the real reason they plan to disrupt Londoners. No employer could possibly meet such demands and strike action will change nothing. There is no more money.

"We have held numerous meetings with the Unions since October 2014, including meetings held at our instigation with the conciliation service ACAS. We continue to offer to work with the trade union leadership to reach a realistic and affordable resolution to this dispute to deliver the Night Tube for customers and a fair and sustainable pay settlement for our staff.”

Strikes have already taken place in connection with the Night Tube dispute, involving the RMT. Transport for London also wants to provide all night services at weekends on the subsurface Underground lines as well as parts of London Overground and the Docklands Light Railway in the years ahead. 

Reader Comments:

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  • Chris Green, Huddersfield

    In my humble opinion, I believe all-night services could work on the tube as they're always chockablock during the daytime, and frankly speaking, it's astonishing that these services have never been introduced in the past. I, however, do understand that rail unions may have a different perspective on this idea, and they're rightfully entitled to make their feelings known by considering strikes.