Negotiators from TfL went to the offices of the conciliation service Acas this morning, appealing for RMT leaders to join them in last-ditch talks to avert the threatened tube strike. Unless they reach an agreement in the next few hours, RMT staff will walk out for 48-hours from about 7pm this evening - an action, voted for by 2,810 of 10,000 balloted RMT members, that is likely to cause severe disruption to the tube network until Friday morning.
In addition to last week’s demands for a 5% pay rise and guarantee of no compulsory redundancies, in the last couple of days the RMT leadership has apparently introduced an additional demand to the negotiating table. According to the ever-reliable Evening Standard:
An agreement with the RMT union to call off the strike over pay and jobs was about to be reached last night until the shock demand to give the two men their jobs back. One driver was sacked for opening the doors on the wrong side of the train at a Victoria line station, then lying about carrying out safety checks. The other, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is due to go on trial later this month for theft.
Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy’s response to this was unsurprising:
I am bitterly disappointed. But we cannot deal with individual disciplinary cases under the threat of strike action. We utterly condemn the RMT's outrageous decision to continue to call for strike action, despite us providing assurances that we are doing everything possible to avoid compulsory redundancies and putting forward an improved two-year, above inflation, pay offer. However, the RMT's leadership has shown that yet again, no matter how fair an offer is made, they would rather strike than talk. Their attitude is a slap in the face to all hard-working Londoners and businesses struggling to get through a deep recession.
So, as hopes of averting the strike begin to fade, how will Londoners get to work for the next couple of days? In an attempt to mitigate the effects of a likely strike, Boris and TfL have drawn up contingency plans to provide extra services and special initiatives to ease the disruption:
Much as we appreciate these contingency plans, we can’t help feeling that we would rather Boris concentrated on meeting his election pledge of securing a no-strike deal with the unions, or at least took a more active part in the negotiations than merely standing on the sidelines labelling the RMT leadership “demented”. Whilst his sentiments may have the ring of truth about them, it will take more decisive action than this if he is to ensure that future industrial action only takes place for legitimate reasons.
Good luck getting to and from work over the next couple of days - let us know how you get on!