Members of the RMT and Aslef unions are to hold a series of 24-hour Tube strikes as the row over pay and conditions for staff working on the planned Night Tube continues.
The service, which will run on Friday nights and the early hours of Saturday and Sunday mornings on five lines, was due to start last September but the ongoing failure to reach agreement with unions has forced transport bosses to delay its introduction.
The strikes will take place on the evenings 26th January, 15th February and 17th February and are likely to force the wholesale closure of services.
Announcing his union’s decision, RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT members are furious at the bodged introduction of the Mayor’s Night Tube plans and the fact that they have been tied in with a pay deal that has left our members dangling on a string and out of pocket since April last year.
“RMT supports the principle of a properly worked out Night Tube service introduced through agreement with the unions but the abject failure to work through the detail has led to a comprehensive breakdown in the negotiations and has forced us to name a programme of further industrial action.
“This whole situation could have been avoided if London Underground, under direction from the Mayor, had dealt with the Night Tube professionally from the off instead of resorting to ultimatums and imposition.”
Aslef’s Finn Brennan said: “This is not a decision we have taken lightly. We genuinely regret the inconvenience that will be caused 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.
“When an employer is simply not prepared to talk, then our only option is to take industrial action. 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.”
Yesterday Steve Griffiths, Chief Operating Officer for London Underground, accused the unions of “trying everything to stop the Night Tube”.
Mr Griffiths added: “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.”
The strikes were condemned by Tory mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith who claimed they would “hit businesses hard and those on low wages and part time contracts even harder”.
On Sunday Liberal Democrat mayoral hopeful Caroline Pidgeon said Mr Johnson and TfL “have messed up this negotiation by giving an artificial deadline for the start of the night tube, allowing the Unions to hold them to ransom.”
She added: “But given that date passed last September, it is quite clear that the Unions are now playing games rather than working all out to secure an agreement. Both sides need to come together, sit round the table and hammer out a full and fair deal. Londoners need, and expect, nothing less.”
Labour’s Sadiq Khan has blamed Boris Johnson for the strikes, suggesting the mayor’s refusal to meet with unions was to blame for the failure to reach a deal.
He commented: “Boris Johnson has refused to meet the trade unions even once during his eight years as Mayor – leading to more strikes taking place on the Underground”
“Londoners need both sides to talk and resolve their differences. As Mayor I will make this happen and stop strikes on the Underground”.
However Mr Johnson hit back earlier today, branding Khan “a tool” of the Tube unions who, he claimed, “isn’t capable of making the tough decisions” needed by Londoners.
Speaking after the strike dates were announced, the Mayor said: “Today’s decision to strike has been orchestrated by union barons without ever properly consulting their members. It is an absolute disgrace.
“LU, TfL and City Hall won’t bow to unreasonable demands. LU has advertised for 200 new part-time drivers. We’ve had over six thousand applications, many from existing drivers who want to work on the night tube, even if their union bosses don’t want them to.
“Today’s decision to strike makes it abundantly clear that the union leadership is hell bent on preventing not just their own members from doing these jobs but anyone else from working the night tube as well.
“These strikes are absurd. They will hit the travelling public, business and hard-working tube staff, many of whom clearly don’t believe in this nonsense. And for what? Ultimately it will do nothing to prevent the advent of the night tube – a 24 hour service for a 21st century city.”
Mr Griffiths commented: “The unions’ position is absurd and detached from the real world. Apparently, above-inflation pay rises, the creation of 700 more Tube jobs and the total protection of the work-life balance of existing staff are grounds for strikes.
“The truth is that they expect our customers to pay for their excessive demands for even more money, fewer hours and a four day week. No employer could allow this and strike action will change nothing. There is no more money.
“Our four year pay offer is extremely fair and we have gone the extra mile to fully protect the work-life balance of all our staff. We will have hired around 700 additional staff, which gives total protection of work-life balance. This is precisely what the unions have asked for, making their call for strikes even more astonishing.
“The unions also attempt to justify their position on a lack of engagement with them. This too is nonsense. We have held numerous meetings with the unions since October 2014, including with the conciliation service ACAS.”
“London needs a Night Tube service and we have made all of the running to implement it fairly. The only thing standing in the way is union intransigence.”