London travel chaos threat as Tube staff to vote on strike action

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
Tube staff are set to vote on strike action. (PA)

Thousands of workers are set to vote on strike action on London’s underground network, threatening to bring the Tube to a standstill in a row over pay.

Commuters, visitors and residents could face significant disruption if members of the powerful National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) support a walkout.

The RMT said it would hold an “urgent ballot” of 10,000 workers across the Underground, but did not confirm the timeline for the vote or any potential walkout. Workers will also be consulted on industrial action short of a strike.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said the union would not accept the current pay offer by Transport for London (TfL), chaired by London mayor Sadiq Khan, after more than a year of negotiations.

TfL said it had offered above-inflation pay rises, but Cash said RMT reps were “angry and frustrated” that negotiations had stalled and a cap on pay hikes had not been lifted.

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“London is a wealthy business centre and those staff who work round the clock to keep the city moving deserve their fair share,” said Cash.

He urged the mayor to intervene, and said the RMT was still willing to talk. Staff were working amid “overcrowding, creaking infrastructure and surging levels of violence,” he added.

Union reps had been taking soundings in workplaces and recommended a ballot “at the earliest opportunity,” according to an RMT press release on Friday.

Members of the train drivers’ union Aslef are also being balloted for strikes over the pay talks.

Aslef official Finn Brennan said the union had been “reluctantly” forced to ballot as management would not offer a guaranteed minimum pay rise as part of a multi-year deal or resolve other issues.

“That is why we were, reluctantly, forced to ballot our members. We want management to get back around the table to negotiate a settlement with us without further delay,” he said.

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It comes after Bakerloo line passengers faced disruption last weekend from another walkout by RMT drivers in a row over timetable changes.

Wider disruption could cause a headache for millions of Londoners and visitors. Up to five million journeys are made on the Tube every day, with more than 543 trains running at once on the network at peak times.

A Transport for London spokesperson said: “We have offered a four-year pay deal which guarantees above-inflation rises. It reflects and rewards the hard work our staff do on the network every day while remaining affordable in a difficult financial climate.

“We remain available to meet to discuss the outstanding issues and seek to avoid damaging strike action.”

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