Train strikes; Now London Underground and Greater Anglia workers threaten summer industrial action

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London Underground workers have threatened to strike again in a dispute over jobs, pay, pensions and conditions – as millions of rail passengers suffered a fourth day in a row of disruption today due to the national rail walkout.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union have taken strike action on the Tube in recent weeks, including a 24-hour walkout on Tuesday. This was on top of the separate RMT strike against Network Rail and 13 train operators across the UK that took place on Tuesday and yesterday with another walkout due tomorrow.

By law, the RMT had to reballot its members on the Underground, with the union saying there was a ‘decisive’ result in favour. More than 90 per cent of those who voted backed industrial action on a 53.1 per cent turnout.

No new strike dates have been set, but they will be decided by the union’s executive in due course –increasing the threat of disruption to services over the summer amid growing disputes across the industry. 

It comes as another union, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA), served notice to ballot its members at Greater Anglia for strike action and action short of strike over pay, conditions and job security. Also today:

  • Only 60 per cent of the 20,000 normal weekday services ran today after the second strikes day yesterday;
  • Leaders of more than 100 global transport unions urge Grant Shapps to meet unions to resolve the dispute;
  • Traffic congestion on London’s roads during the morning rush hour today was it is lowest level of the week;
  • British Airways workers based at London Heathrow Airport have now voted to strike in a dispute over pay;
  • Britons heading abroad again endured huge queues at UK airports such as Heathrow and Manchester today. 

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch confirmed that the union would ‘take a pause next week and consider everything’, adding that a strike by managers involved with the TSSA could see more workers enter the dispute.

Meanwhile there were slim hopes today that future Tube strikes could be averted – following four walkouts in the past three months – after Sadiq Khan suggested that he accepted the union’s demands not to cut pensions.

The London Mayor said he was ‘not persuaded’ that ‘final salary’ pension scheme run by Transport for London, which cost the operator £401million in contributions last year, should have its benefits altered.

The pensions issue is a major concern to the RMT along with pay rises and a cut of 600 station staff jobs. The union has already walked out on the Tube in recent months on March 1 and 3 and June 6, as well as on Tuesday.

KING'S CROSS - London King's Cross railway station looks very quiet this morning as the strikes continue to impact services

KING’S CROSS – London King’s Cross railway station looks very quiet this morning as the strikes continue to impact services

EUSTON - London Euston railway station looks very quiet this morning as the strikes continue to impact services

EUSTON – London Euston railway station looks very quiet this morning as the strikes continue to impact services

WIMBLEDON - Queues for buses in Wimbledon, South West London, this morning following the second day of train strikes

WIMBLEDON – Queues for buses in Wimbledon, South West London, this morning following the second day of train strikes

EUSTON - Rail, Maritime and Transport union general secretary Mick Lynch arrives at its offices near London Euston today

EUSTON – Rail, Maritime and Transport union general secretary Mick Lynch arrives at its offices near London Euston today

DISTRICT LINE - A District line station on the London Underground is closed today following the strike action this week

DISTRICT LINE – A District line station on the London Underground is closed today following the strike action this week

NOTTING HILL - A long queue of traffic on the Harrow Road near Notting Hill in West London at rush hour this morning

NOTTING HILL – A long queue of traffic on the Harrow Road near Notting Hill in West London at rush hour this morning

FARRINGDON - Tube services run as normal through Farringdon station in London this morning after a week of disruption

FARRINGDON – Tube services run as normal through Farringdon station in London this morning after a week of disruption

And Mr Khan told the London Evening Standard: ‘I’m quite clear I’m not persuaded that there are any grounds to change the pensions of those who work for TfL. It’s for the Government to make the case.

‘I’m quite clear the way to recognise the hard work of our transport workers – the many thousands who have kept our city running – shouldn’t be to make unilateral changes on their terms and conditions.’

Unions from around the world write to Grant Shapps over rail strikes 

Leaders of more than 100 global transport unions from 52 countries have written to the Transport Secretary, urging him to meet with unions to try to resolve the rail dispute.

A letter co-ordinated by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), warned the dispute risks harming the UK’s credibility on industrial relations.

Strikes by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, Unite and Aslef have crippled rail and Tube services this week.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the strikes are unnecessary and maintains he has not been involved in talks because it should be up to the employers and unions to negotiate on pay, jobs and conditions.

Stephen Cotton, ITF general secretary, said: ‘Unions across the world are shocked that less than a year after committing to supporting dialogue with trade unions at COP26, the UK is set to impose cuts to railway services and scrap infrastructure projects at exactly the time when it should be expanding and promoting public transport.

‘The Government pumped in millions to keep private companies afloat; the workers kept the system moving. Grant Shapps must realise that the UK’s international reputation on industrial relations is at risk.

‘If he remains unwilling to even speak with national unions, what hope does he think his government will have when it comes to engaging international unions as part of the government’s ‘Global Britain’ agenda?’

A Department for Transport spokesman said: ‘It is entirely false to claim the Government is blocking negotiations. We have said from the outset we urge the unions and industry to agree a deal that is fair for railway staff, passengers and taxpayers.’ 

But Conservative London Assembly member Keith Prince said: ‘It’s disgraceful if Sadiq Khan decides he’d prefer to cut bus routes and other TfL services than save £182 million per year by reforming TfL pensions.’

It comes after TfL received a three-week extension to its current Government Covid bailout, although Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he wanted a ‘reset of the relationship’ with City Hall, which is in disarray.

Speaking about the prospect of future Tube strikes and the latest ballot, Mr Lynch said: ‘This is a fantastic result for our members and proves that the arguments RMT has been making is endorsed by Tube workers.

‘Transport for London (TfL) and the Mayor of London need to seriously re-think their plans for hundreds of job cuts and trying to take hard-earned pensions from workers who serve the people of London on a daily basis. We are acutely aware of the funding cuts being foisted on TfL by the Westminster government.

‘However, Mayor Sadiq Khan needs to mount a serious campaign for the people of London, to get the capital city the funding it deserves for its public transport. He should not be trying to sacrifice our members’ pensions and jobs to fit within budget restraints laid down by (Prime Minister) Boris Johnson.’

The TSSA – based in London like the RMT – is demanding a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies for 2022, no unagreed changes to terms and conditions, and a pay increase which reflects the rising cost of living. 

Voting starts on June 29, with the result due in mid-July, so the earliest date strike action could start is July 27.

The TSSA is also balloting its members in Network Rail, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, West Midlands Trains, Avanti West Coast, Northern, LNER, C2C, Great Western Railway (GWR) and TransPennine Express.

Greater Anglia services were disrupted yesterday by a 24-hour walkout by members of the drivers’ union Aslef as well as the national strikes by members of the RMT.

TSSA members work in various roles, including station staff and managers, conductors, driver managers, train crew managers and platform team leaders.

The TSSA’s general secretary Manuel Cortes said: ‘Our members at Greater Anglia are seeking basic fair treatment in the teeth of a crippling cost-of-living crisis.

‘Rail workers were hailed as heroes in the pandemic and now they deserve a real terms pay rise which keeps pace with inflation, rather than shouldering the burden of the Tories’ economic meltdown.

‘Our demands are simple – pay which reflects the times we live in, a deal which delivers job security, and no race to the bottom on terms and conditions.

WIMBLEDON - Wimbledon station in South West London had no services running before 7am this morning

WIMBLEDON – Wimbledon station in South West London had no services running before 7am this morning

EUSTON - London Euston railway station looks very quiet this morning as the strikes continue to impact services

EUSTON – London Euston railway station looks very quiet this morning as the strikes continue to impact services

WIMBLEDON - Wimbledon station in South West London had no services running before 7am this morning

WIMBLEDON – Wimbledon station in South West London had no services running before 7am this morning

KING'S CROSS - London King's Cross railway station looks very quiet this morning as the strikes continue to impact services

KING’S CROSS – London King’s Cross railway station looks very quiet this morning as the strikes continue to impact services

‘It’s time the Government changed course. Instead of making cuts across our railway the Department for Transport should either give Greater Anglia and other companies the signal to make us a reasonable offer, or ministers should come to the negotiating table and speak to us directly.

British Airways workers at Heathrow vote to strike

British Airways workers based at London Heathrow Airport have voted to strike in a dispute over pay.

Members of the GMB and Unite backed industrial action. The unions said holidaymakers face disruption, warning of a summer of strikes.

Workers, including check-in staff, will now decide on strike dates, which the union said were likely to be held during the peak summer holiday period.

Nadine Houghton, GMB national officer, said: ‘With grim predictability, holidaymakers face massive disruption thanks to the pig-headedness of British Airways. BA have tried to offer our members crumbs from the table in the form of a 10 per cent one-off bonus payment, but this doesn’t cut the mustard.

‘Our members need to be reinstated the 10% they had stolen from them last year with full back pay and the 10% bonus which other colleagues have been paid. GMB members at Heathrow have suffered untold abuse as they deal with the travel chaos caused by staff shortages and IT failures. At the same time, they’ve had their pay slashed during BA’s callous fire and rehire policy.

‘What did BA think was going to happen? It’s not too late to save the summer holidays – other BA workers have had their pay cuts reversed. Do the same for ground and check-in staff and this industrial action can be nipped in the bud.’

Downing Street said strike action would add to passengers’ ‘misery’ at airports and called for BA to put contingency measures in place.

A BA statement said: ‘We’re extremely disappointed with the result and that the unions have chosen to take this course of action. Despite the extremely challenging environment and losses of more than £4billion, we made an offer of a 10 per cent payment which was accepted by the majority of other colleagues.

‘We are fully committed to work together to find a solution, because to deliver for our customers and rebuild our business we have to work as a team. We will of course keep our customers updated about what this means for them as the situation evolves.’

‘The alternative is a long-running summer of discontent across our rail network. Make no mistake, we are preparing for all options, including coordinated strike action which would bring trains to a halt.’

It comes as rail passengers across Britain suffered more disruption today because of a deadlocked dispute over jobs, pay and conditions.

Only 60 per cent of the 20,000 normal weekday services were running today, mainly because of a delay to the start of services after signallers and control room staff did not turn up for overnight shifts.

Some operators will wind down services slightly earlier than normal this evening.

In London, services have increased quickly because trains do not have to travel long distances from depots to stations – but the restart was due to take several hours in remote locations. 

Network Rail said that ‘even during the day the service will stay thinner’ than usual.

But traffic congestion on London’s roads during the morning rush hour today was it is lowest of the week by some distance, according to data provided by location services company TomTom.

The figure between 8am and 9am this morning was 59 per cent – down from 83 per cent in the same time slot yesterday, 95 per cent on Wednesday, 98 per cent on Tuesday and 70 per cent on Monday.

However it was still up on 54 per cent on Friday of last week, suggesting this week’s RMT rail strikes are still having some impact on traffic.

This morning, there were a total of 1,150 traffic jams in London, covering a total of 436 miles – but this was significantly down from the 1,930 yesterday, covering a total of 830 miles.

The congestion level represents the extra travel time for drivers on average compared to baseline uncongested conditions – so a 57 per cent level means a 30-minute trip will take 18 minutes more than with no traffic.

The highest congestion level so far this week in London was 98 per cent between 8am and 10am on Tuesday morning.

This was the most congestion seen in the capital since an RMT strike on March 1, when the level reached an unprecedented high of 119 per cent.

And it suggests that fewer people have been on the roads in the capital this week, when compared to the strike in March.

Speaking about the national strikes that have caused havoc this week, Mr Lynch said: ‘Our members are leading the way in standing up for all working people trying to get a pay rise and some job security.

‘In a modern economy, workers need to be properly rewarded for their work, enjoy good conditions and have the peace of mind that their job will not be taken away from them.

Traffic congestion on London's roads during the morning rush hour today was it is lowest of the week by some distance, according to data provided by TomTom. The figure between 8am and 9am this morning was 59 per cent - down from 83 per cent in the same time slot yesterday, 95 per cent on Wednesday, 98 per cent on Tuesday and 70 per cent on Monday

Traffic congestion on London’s roads during the morning rush hour today was it is lowest of the week by some distance, according to data provided by TomTom. The figure between 8am and 9am this morning was 59 per cent – down from 83 per cent in the same time slot yesterday, 95 per cent on Wednesday, 98 per cent on Tuesday and 70 per cent on Monday

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan speaks to the media at West Ham bus depot in East London yesterday afternoon

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan speaks to the media at West Ham bus depot in East London yesterday afternoon

‘Grant Shapps (Transport Secretary) needs to get in the room or get out of the way so we can negotiate with these companies who we have successfully struck dozens of deals with previously.

‘What we cannot accept is thousands of railway workers being thrown on the scrapheap after being praised as heroes during Covid. RMT will continue its industrial campaign until a negotiated settlement is reached.’

Talks have been held throughout the week and will continue in the coming days, but there is little sign of a breakthrough.

Tomorrow’s services will be a similar picture to the other strike days on Tuesday and yesterday. Around 20 per cent of services will run and just half of lines will be open, and only between 7.30am and 6.30pm.

Speaking on the BBC’s Question Time, Mr Lynch said: ‘The companies have told me face to face they could achieve a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies’, but added they ‘are not being allowed to’.

‘They won’t write it down on a piece of paper and give it to us as a commitment,’ he said, to which Conservative MP Rachel Maclean replied: ‘No organisation can give that guarantee.’

Prime Minister Boris Johnson branded the strikes a ‘terrible idea’ and insisted there is ‘no point’ having railways that are ‘so uneconomic’ that ticket prices are prohibitive to passengers.

He also defended dealing public sector workers real-term pay cuts while giving pensioners rises in line with soaring inflation.

Speaking to reporters travelling with him in Rwanda, he said: ‘We’ve got to make the railways run economically for the very benefit of the railway workers themselves and their families.

‘There’s no point having a railway system in this country that’s so uneconomic that you keep having to put ticket prices up and you have to drive more and more people off the railways.

‘You can’t go on with practices like walking time with ticket offices that sell very few tickets. You need to modernise.’

The statutory instruments set to change the law to enable businesses to supply skilled agency workers to plug staffing gaps during industrial action will be laid on Friday and Monday, Downing Street has said.

Dev

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