The London Underground network is set to be crippled by a wave of 24-hour rolling strikes from today after talks at the conciliation service Acas to avert industrial action collapsed last week.
Some 10,000 members of London Underground’s two biggest unions, the RMT and TSSA, began preparations for strike action from 5pm on 6 September over London Underground plans to axe 800 staff working in ticket offices and stations, which they claim will jeopardise safety on the Tube.
Maintenance and engineering staff will be the first to down tools, followed by station and revenue staff, operational managers, drivers and signallers at 9pm. The action will last until 8.59pm on Tuesday and begin again on Sunday 3 October, Tuesday 2 November and Sunday 28 November.
An indefinite overtime ban for all members of both unions has also commenced at a minute after midnight on Monday, bringing chaos to the London Underground network.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “LU management knew very well that meaningful talks could not proceed while the threat of cuts to safety and safe staffing levels hung over our members’ heads – their failure to remove that threat sabotaged any prospect of making progress.”
The planned cuts were not about the introduction of new technology as claimed but were instead intended to tackle a multi-billion pound black hole resulting from costs accrued by Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s failure to privatise the tube and coalition government proposed budget cuts, he added.
But Howard Collins, LU’s chief operating officer, told the Daily Telegraph: “London Underground went to ACAS to take part in meaningful discussions with the TSSA and RMT leaderships, with the expectation that they would be prepared to do the same. However, from the outset, they have imposed unreasonable preconditions that they knew would render constructive discussions impossible.”
LU needed to change as it was impossible to continue with a situation where some ticket offices sell less than 10 tickets an hour, but staffing alterations would be delivered without compromising safety and without compulsory redundancies, he added. Instead, all stations with a ticket office would continue to have one and they would be staffed at all times.
The Transport for London website said that the aim was to run some services as 60% of train drivers were members of the rival ASLEF union, which is not involved in the dispute. Attempts are also being made to provide alternative forms of transport, including the provision of additional river and bus services and the creation of a network of guided cycle rides, where convoys of commuters will be steered into the capital.