Millions of Londoners are set to have their journeys disrupted later this week after unions unions rejected a revised pay deal for staff affected by the introduction of a new weekend Night Tube next month.
The service is due to start on September 12th and will run on Friday nights and the early hours of Saturday and Sunday mornings on the following lines:
• Central line: trains will run between Ealing Broadway and Hainault;
• Jubilee line: trains will run on the entire line;
• Northern line: trains will run on the entire line except on the Mill Hill East and Bank branches;
• Piccadilly line: trains will run between Cockfosters and Heathrow Terminal 5;
• Victoria line: trains will run on the entire line.
Plans for the Night Tube were first unveiled by Mayor Boris Johnson in November 2013 before securing a staffing agreement with the unions.
Members of the Unite, TSSA, ASLEF and RMT unions have already staged walkouts after rejecting an offered £500 bonus to all staff, a 2% rise plus a £2,000 one-off bonus for drivers on the five lines running night services.
Tube managers claim the hiring of 137 new drivers for the new service means existing staff will only be asked to work “a few extra nights per year within the existing working week” but unions say the imposition of new shifts will have a detrimental impact on members’ work-life balance.
Over the weekend unions and London Underground discussed a revised offer which included “an average two per cent salary increase this year,” the original £500 bonus, an extra £200 per Night Tube shift for drivers and a £500 bonus for station staff.
The new deal also includes “assurances on work-life balance” with drivers receiving “the same number of weekends off as they receive now.”
However on Monday the unions rejected the revised offer and said the strike will go ahead as planned.
As a result Tube services will stop running at 18:30 BST on Wednesday and there will be no service all day on Thursday.
In a statement ASLEF said the “overwhelming view of our members is that this offer is not acceptable. The main concern is the complete lack of firm commitments on work life balance for train drivers.
“Our members want guarantees on the number of weekend rest days they will have under both the interim and long term arrangements for night tube.”
“We would be prepared to continue discussions to try to find common ground, but senior management are insistent that new rosters will be issued this week so that Night Tube starts on September 12. The sensible option would be to postpone the launch date to allow for an agreed way forward to be reached.
“But once again, management are being completely inflexible and are refusing to negotiate on their offer. They are insisting that it must be accepted as it stands. This leaves us with no other choice than to go ahead with strike action from 21.30 on Wednesday August 5th.
“We genuinely regret the disruption this will cause. But the blame for this must rest with the pig headed determination of the Mayor to insist on a September launch instead of allowing more time for a negotiated settlement to be reached.”
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “Our members have made it clear that the latest offer from London Underground is merely a rehash of the previous package and does nothing to tackle the core issue which revolves around staff being at the beck and call of management to be hauled in during their free time to try and plug the staffing gaps which riddle the Mayor’s Night Tube vanity project.
“The Night Tube plan has been botched from the off. The basics haven’t been done and those who will pay for this shambles will not only be our members but the London daily travelling public who cough up a fortune and who will find their safety and the reliability of the service compromised from 12th September onwards.
“The action goes ahead and RMT remains available for talks regardless of the point we have reached in the dispute which is perfectly normal.”
And the TSSA’s Manuel Cortes said: “The Night Tube was a gimmick when Boris Johnson first announced it and it still remains a gimmick today. The only difference is that he has now worked out that he may not be able to afford it after all. Our private information is that it will not break even until 2033.
”This is the reason he is now gambling with the health and safety of our members. Now he wants to blame the unions for failing to start it on time next month. This is not about industrial relations, it is about politics and Boris’s long term drive towards Downing Street.
“There are a number of stations where there will be one member of staff on duty during the middle of the night. With crowds of potential drunks to deal with, we think that could be an accident waiting to happen.”
LU has accused unions of “continuing to demand more money, the hiring of even more staff – including for ticket offices that customers no longer use – and further guarantees on what they consider to be issues around work-life balance, including a 32 hour, four day week.”
Steve Griffiths, Chief Operating Officer, London Underground, said: “After listening to the unions, we put forward an extremely fair revised offer, which addresses their concerns over work life balance and rewards our people for the hard work they do in keeping London working and growing.
“Despite this, the new offer has been rejected outright by the union leadership, again without consulting their members.
“We continue to urge them to put the new offer to their members and not subject Londoners to further unnecessary disruption. We remain available for talks at any time.”