Government ministers are to make it harder for Tube and other London transport workers to strike following lobbying by Tory mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith.
According to figures recently compiled by Labour, Tube workers have staged 35 strikes on the London Underground since 2008, with further industrial action taken by bus and DLR staff.
Mr Goldsmith has persuaded ministers to include Transport for London services on a controversial list of ‘essential’ trades on which new strike laws will impose minimum turnout and vote thresholds.
Once the new laws are implemented at least 50% of eligible voters will need to take part in a strike ballot for it to be deemed valid and at least 40% of those entitled to vote must back strike action before it can go ahead.
Other industries and employers covered by the new rules include fire services,
the NHS, schools and other education centres, border security and nuclear decommissioning.
Conservatives on the London Assembly have long called for minimum threshold for strike ballots affecting the Tube due to the service’s importance to Londoners’ ability to get to work.
Some estimates suggest that a single strike day costs the capital’s economy £10m per day.
Goldsmith wrote to ministers last year urging them to include Transport for London on the list of services deemed ‘essential’.
In a letter issued by Mr Goldsmith’s campaign, Employment Minister Nick Boles says ministers “agree with your concern that strike action in many of London’s transport services can have an immediate adverse impact on significant numbers of people.”
“We have therefore concluded that it is justified and proportionate to specify London bus services and passenger railway services (including underground, light rail and tram services) as important public services for the purposes of the 40% threshold.”
Welcoming the decision, Mr Goldsmith said: “It must be right that TfL services are classed as essential because that’s what they are to the millions of people who live and work in Greater London. Unions shouldn’t be able to call a strike on spurious grounds, with little real support.
“That’s why I’ve campaigned to persuade Government to make this change, and I’m pleased that my campaign has delivered.”
Goldsmith said his backing for tougher strike laws constitutes “a real point of difference” between him and Labour rival Sadiq Khan whose mayoral bid is supported by a number of unions.
He commented: “I back stronger strike laws but Jeremy Corbyn’s candidate, Sadiq Khan, is working hand in glove with the unions to stop them, proving that he cannot deliver much needed transport improvements like the night tube.”
Mr Boles said: “Zac made clear to me that that strikes affecting Transport for London services must be included in these new thresholds and I’m pleased to say they have been.
“These new thresholds ensure the right to strike is fairly balanced with the right of Londoners to be able to go about their daily lives and work.”
The new thresholds are the latest in a series of carefully choreographed policy announcements which the Goldsmith campaign are hoping will establish him in voters’ minds as the candidate who can deliver for London.
Over the past few weeks the mayoral hopeful has called for changes to the government’s housing bill and powers for London to regulate pedicabs, each of which has subsequently been agreed to by ministers.
At his formal campaign launch earlier this week Mr Goldsmith pointed out that the electoral timetable meant the next Mayor would need to do deals with a Conservative government for their entire first term.
His campaign are keen to suggest his contacts within government make him more likely to secure ministerial support for policies and major schemes than would be true for Mr Khan.
Mr Khan claimed the government’s announcement was “deliberately timed to destabilise” talks between Tube bosses and unions aimed at resolving differences over pay and conditions for staff working on the proposed night Tube.
He aded: “If ever Londoners needed evidence that the Tories treat them with utter disdain, then this is it. The fact they’re are prepared to stir up strikes on the tube for their own political gain shows the Tories are totally unfit to run London”.
“Behaviour like this is the reason there are twice as many tube strikes under the Tories.”