London’s commuters are about to learn that every silver lining has a cloud, as tube drivers belonging to the ASLEF union prepare to go on strike over night-tube proposals.
The BBC’s Tom Edwards tweeted that the 24 hour strike is set to go ahead on Wednesday 8 July starting at 9.30pm. The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) and TSSA have also balloted for strike action. But get this: they could all strike on the same day. If that happens, you might as well stay at home because you won’t be getting anywhere in London by public transport.
The BBC says 1992 was last time a strike across all tube workers was called — over the usual things, like pay and loss of jobs. And rather than limit itself to a 24 hour strike, the RMT (with a fledgling Bob Crow testing London Underground’s negotiation skills) was going for an indefinite strike. Fortunately for London, it was called off at the 11th hour, but had LU not caved in, that one could have gone on for a while.
When the roll-out of night-time services across the tube network was announced in February this year, the response from Londoners was mostly ‘about bloody time’. But someone has to drive the trains and man the stations, so the unions have been in discussions with LU ever since over how much they’d get paid to work nights. LUL’s offer was a 0.75% increase, which was described by tube workers as ‘derisory’. However much we get annoyed with striking public transport workers, ask yourself this – would you accept a pay rise of 0.75% in return for taking on night shifts that you’d never signed up for? No, of course not.
London Assembly Labour transport spokesperson Val Shawcross criticised Boris Johnson for not tackling what was always going to be a bone of contention, saying:
“We’re completely behind the night tube, it’ll be a great asset to London, but the fact is the Mayor should have consulted tube staff about the changes a long time ago.
“I’ve little doubt that Londoners will sympathise with tube staff who have been confronted with huge adjustments to their working hours, which could have a significant impact on their family life.”
Tube driving blogger ASLEF Shrugged said the result of the union’s ballot was 1810 (98.7%) votes for industrial action, 24 (1.3%) votes against and an 81% turnout. He does also suggest the somewhat Machiavellian theory that LU agreeing to the night tube was all a sham and the minuscule pay offer was designed to throw the blame for any failure of the night tube onto the unions.
The results of the RMT and TSSA ballots are expected later this month. If you haven’t already got a Santander Cycle Hire account, now might be a good time to get one. Failing that, a stout pair of walking shoes or the ability to work from home will do just as well.