Mayoral candidates Boris Johnson and Brian Paddick have condemned the announcement of a 72-hour strike by London Underground workers in a row over safety.
The RMT and TSSA unions have announced a stoppage from 1830 on 6 April to 9 April amid claims that plans to close 40 ticket offices and reduce opening hours will leader to lower safety standards.
“Each of these issues is serious in its own right, but together they amount to a fundamental and unacceptable attack on staffing across the network, putting our members’ and passengers’ safety at risk,” RMT general secretary Bob Crow said in a statement.
Gerry Doherty, general secretary of TSSA, said: “This is a dispute about the safety of our Tube system. The last people we want to hit are the travelling public but this seems to be the only way we can make London Underground listen.
“We have been trying to make them understand for months that we will not allow safety standards to be lowered by the use of agency staff. Even at this late stage, we want a negotiated settlement and remain ready to talk next week to achieve one.”
Howard Collins, Deputy Chief Operating Officer of London Underground, said the strikes “have nothing whatsoever to do with safety, and not a single job is at risk.”
“All of the issues raised by the RMT are already being addressed through the normal negotiating process.”
“There is simply no reason for a strike, or even the threat of one, as all of the issues being raised can be resolved.”
LibDem candidate Brian Paddick said today’s announcement “clearly demonstrates is the need for route and branch change of London Underground, who are clearly incapable of efficiently managing labour relations and the underground.”
Tory rival Boris Johnson has repeated calls to enter into a no-strike deal with the Tube unions.
Mr Johnson said incumbent Mayor Ken Livingstone “has repeatedly shown himself to be unwilling to deal with the problem of strikes and the deeper issues behind them. He has been in office for eight years; in that time there have been 16 incidents of industrial action, which have led to a disruption of services.”
Repeating a key manifesto pledge Johnson said he would “be pro-active, and seek to negotiate – in good faith – a no strike deal with the unions. In return, they will have a guarantee of independent arbitration that will rule on pay and working conditions. This is a fair solution that is designed to build bridges with a fresh approach. It would guarantee union members long-term job safety, while ensuring that London is kept moving.”
Earlier this month The Guardian reported an RMT spokesman as saying “RMT does not sign no-strike deals and would never give up its right to strike. More working time is lost in Britain through injuries sustained at work as a result of poor employers than through industrial action.”