Tuesday, February 27

Tube strike: London braced for worst disruption in a decade after talks break down



The biggest London Underground strike in more than a decade will start on Wednesday, after last-minute talks between tube bosses and unions ended in acrimony.

Almost 20,000 tube workers will walk out from 6.30pm, crippling tube services until Friday morning and causing travel chaos across the capital.

Last minute talks at the conciliation service, Acas, aimed at settling the dispute – over pay and the new ‘Night Tube’ service – broke down late on Tuesday.

The boss of London Underground (LU) accused of unions of not acting in a “fair and reasonable” manner over an improved pay offer, while transport chiefs were accused of “foolish games of brinkmanship”.

Tubes will start running down from 5pm, with all 11 lines shut for all of Thursday. Disruption could carry on until Friday morning.

Tubes are expected to be “exceptionally busy” between 4pm and 6pm on Wednesday – just after the Budget – as people try to get home before the 24-hour strike officially starts at 6.30pm.

The action coincides with a 48-hour stoppage by workers on First Great Western which will disrupt trains to and from London Paddington.

Workers involved in the two separate disputes will stage a rally outside Paddington just before the action starts.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), Aslef, Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) and Unite have been in dispute with London Underground over pay being offered for the new service, due to start at weekends from mid-September.

Managers have tabled a “final” offer, including an average 2 per cent rise this year, at least RPI inflation for each of the next two years and £2,000 for drivers on the new all-night service.

Transport for London said extra bus and river services will run, but warned that roads and all public transport will be much busier than usual.

Mike Brown, managing director of LU, told the Press Association he was “gutted” that the unions had not responded to the “fair and reasonable” offer.

He said: “It would have been good if we could have had some talks, because none of the unions responded to the offer. If they are not prepared to talk to us they should go back to their members because this is a vastly different offer. All we have heard is a series of speeches from trade union leaders, condemning us for communicating with our staff.

“The offer is still there and we are available to talk about it. I am amazed we have had no response.”

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Despite strenuous efforts by union negotiators to press London Underground to address the issues of fairness, safety, work/life balance and equality at the heart of this dispute, they have come up with nothing in the talks.

“The action is on and RMT will be mobilising picket lines and effective action with our sister unions and there are no further talks planned at this stage.”

Finn Brennan, Aslef’s organiser on the Tube said: “The responsibility for this strike and the disruption that it will cause rests squarely with London Underground management .

“They squandered the window of opportunity to resolve this dispute by refusing to move their position in the slightest for three months and then demanding that all four trade unions accept an offer in one afternoon. They have played foolish games of brinkmanship, taking their offer off the table then denying they had done so.

“Aslef members voted by over 97 per cent on a turnout of more than 81pc to take strike action to protect their work-life balance and working conditions. Money has never been the key issue in this dispute – ensuring that change is negotiated rather than imposed and introduced in a fair way has.

“Attempts to brand it as political and using tired cliched attacks on trade unions are simply an effort to distract attention from London Underground’s inept handling of negotiations.

“We will be ready to return to the negotiating table on Friday morning to ensure that further action can be avoided.”