The Power of Tube Strikes

Articles, Election 2008, LondonUnlockedEditor

The RMT unveiled details of their proposed - and now cancelled - strike over pensions and travel provision for its 2,500 ex-Metronet workers on Friday afternoon.

The BBC carries all the details, though the union picked the politically sensitive date of the 28th April for the 48 hour strike. With that proposed strike scheduled to end with just one day to go before the Mayoral elections, the RMT clearly understood the devastating effect that it would have on Mayor Ken Livingstone's re-election chances. The Evening Standard has more on this aspect of the story here.

On Saturday the news began to leak that TfL had given significant concessions to the RMT members affected, and that the strikes may be called off. At that stage of play it became clear that the RMT union looked like having made significant ground on all its demands, namely:

  • that its 2500 ex-Metronet staff will recieve free annual season tickets worth almost £1,800 for themselves and their partners
  • and join TfL's (not ungenerous) pensions scheme

This morning however, the Times details the allegations that these concessions had far less to do with a serious negotiation, and more to do with placating the unions before the vote on the 1st May. Boris Johnson has been making much hay from the deal:

“This is an election bribe to keep the unions sweet a fortnight before the election... did Mr Livingstone order his transport adviser to stop the strikes no matter what the cost? If so, this will be yet another breach of the election rules."

Given that Mr Johnson is committed to ensuring that a no-strike deal is negotiated between his mayoralty and the unions, this is an issue which he rightly feels he can make much hay with. However, the wider point of his allegations still needs investigating:

Exactly what did TfL gain in return for these hugely costly concessions, and what role did the Mayor have in ensuring their passage?

The public and business can only trust a Mayor who is accountable and open - with this move over any other we see neither of those traits.

LondonUnlocked will update this story as and when any developments occur.