London Underground workers belonging to the RMT union have voted to strike in protest at job cuts and the closing of ticket offices on the Tube network.
Plans to axe the ticket offices and redeploy staff to ticket halls and platforms were confirmed last year by Mayor Boris Johnson and Mike Brown, Managing Director of London Underground
The Mayor, who previously opposed the closure of 40 ticket offices by his predecessor, says the closures are necessary to reflect the ongoing move away from paper tickets to Oyster and contactless fares.
However the unions say passengers will see fewer staff and that mobility impaired and other disabled passengers may not get the help they need, claims denied by LU.
The changes will involve around 960 job losses, although some new posts will be created by the introduction of a new all-night weekend Tube service in 2015, leaving a net loss of 750 jobs.
A one-day strike over the plans in February cased widespread disruption, with passengers only spared further upheaval after unions agreed to suspend a second day action so that talks could take place.
In return for the suspension of further action, LU agreed to review the closure plans for each ticket office.
However the RMT says “London Underground are still maintaining that every ticket office will close by the end of 2015” and has accused managers of making “dishonest” commitments to staff and passengers and misleading disability rights groups.
Acting General Secretary Mick Cash claimed the job losses are “the first tranche of cuts to the staffing levels and safety culture on the tube due to government imposed austerity cuts to London Underground and TfL.”
Staff will hold a two-day strike from 9pm on Monday April 28th followed by a three-day strike 9pm on Monday May 5th.
LU has defended its conduct during talks and says the union failed to offer “no credible alternative proposals.”
Chief Operating Officer, Phil Hufton said: “Over the past eight weeks, we have met with our trades union colleagues on over 40 occasions, listening to their concerns and making significant changes as a result. I’ve committed to looking at ways to ensure that no one will lose pay and no supervisor will have to apply for their own job. There will be no compulsory redundancies and all requests for voluntary redundancy will be honoured.
“However, the RMT leadership has rejected these changes and has not put forward any credible alternative proposals. Next week, we will sit down again with the ASLEF, TSSA and Unite unions for further discussions on our plans and how we can meet the needs of our customers in 21st century London. I urge the RMT to join us, rather than threaten further unnecessary disruption to Londoners. All a strike will achieve is lose those who take part pay for each day of action.”
Val Shawcross, Labour’s Transport Spokeswoman on the London Assembly, said: “Whilst constructive talks are still taking place between TfL management and the unions this strike is misguided. We need all sides to sit down and negotiate a solution to this dispute.”
She added: “There are some interesting ideas in TfL’s plans but TfL staff and Londoners should be given the chance to have their say and improve them. After all it is the public who use the Underground on a day to day basis and they will have to live with the cuts. Passengers should have a say in the future of London Underground services.
“We need the Mayor to show some real leadership and launch a full public consultation on his proposed cuts to ticket offices and station staffing levels. People across our city need to know how the proposed changes will affect their local station and their daily commute.”