Tube workers to strike over jobs, pensions and working conditions

Tube workers are to go on strike for two days next month over fears for jobs, pensions and working conditions, threatening widespread disruption across London.

The RMT union announced that its members on the tube would walk out on 1 and 3 March.

It came as a funding arrangement between the government and Transport for London was extended for two weeks. The arrangement was due to end on Friday.

A Transport for London spokesperson said: “We continue to discuss our funding requirements with the government … We have today agreed with the government that our existing funding agreement will be extended until 18 February 2022 so that these discussions can be concluded.”

Earlier, the union said it had had no assurances as Transport for London continues to look for ways to balance its finances after passenger numbers and revenue fell drastically during the pandemic, with central government refusing to confirm emergency funding will continue.

A ballot of more than 10,000 members resulted in 94% backing industrial action, although TfL said only about 50% of staff had voted.

Mick Lynch, the RMT general secretary, said: “Our members will be taking strike action next month because a financial crisis at London Underground (LUL) has been deliberately engineered by the government to drive a cuts agenda, which would savage jobs, services, safety and threaten their working conditions and‎ pensions.

“These are the very same transport staff praised as heroes for carrying London through Covid for nearly two years. Staff will not pay the price for this cynically engineered crisis.”

TfL said it would be open to talks and urged the RMT to “do the right thing for London and call off this unnecessary action”.

Andy Lord said the strike call was “extremely disappointing”. TfL’s chief operating officer said no proposals had been tabled on pensions or terms and conditions, and nobody would lose their jobs.

He said: “The devastating impact of the pandemic on TfL finances has made a programme of change urgently necessary and we need the RMT to work with us, rather than disrupting London’s recovery.”

TfL has commissioned an independent review of staff pension arrangements, as a condition of the funding released by central government last year. It has also said it will not fill about 250 vacant customer service posts nor replace about 250-350 more when staff leave or retire, cutting the overall numbers by about 10%-12%.

Meanwhile, the TSSA union said it would act if Network Rail attempted to make staff compulsorily redundant on the national railway. Network Rail is planning to cut more than 900 further jobs, which the union said were “predominantly professional and technical staff who ensure the safe running of our railways”.

Manuel Cortes, the TSSA leader, said: “Tory cuts are bulldozing our rail industry. Their so-called levelling-up is a fallacy. Sadly, the message for passengers is you are paying more for less.”

The growing row over deeper cuts to rail – with operators already told to find huge savings – came as the Department for Transport launched its competition to locate the headquarters of the proposed Great British Railways, as part of Keith Williams’ and Grant Shapps’ reforms announced last May. A public poll will influence the decision. Railway towns including Crewe, Derby and York are expected contenders, as well as Milton Keynes, which stands to lose its established Network Rail head office.


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