Mayor of London clashes with unions over proposed tube strikes

By Joe Talora, Local Democracy Reporter

A leading transport union boss has called on Sadiq Khan to “decide which side he’s on” as workers look set to strike over TfL cuts.

It was revealed on Tuesday that between 500 and 600 jobs at Tube stations across London were facing the axe as a result of TfL’s precarious financial situation.

Though TfL has said this will not lead to any redundancies, the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) announced that it was balloting members for strike action over the cuts.

On Tuesday, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said that he is “pro trade union” but called on RMT to “resolve this amicably”.

But RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Sadiq has got a strange way of showing he’s pro trade union with his attack on our members fighting to defend a progressive pro work/life balance on the Night Tube.

“We are balloting now to stop mass job cuts on London Underground and we would expect a Labour Mayor to stand with the workers.

“We are always happy to talk but we are not interested in political posturing. We will campaign with anyone who’s serious about defending jobs, safety and services.

“The Mayor needs to decide which side he’s on.”

Relations between the Mayor of London and transport unions are becoming increasingly strained, with RMT members also striking over changes to the rotas used to staff the partially reopened Night Tube.

Tube drivers on the Victoria and Central lines have staged 24-hour walkouts for the past two weekends, though RMT is currently in discussions with TfL through ACAS to avoid a third round of action.

In addition to this, the ASLEF union which also represents London Underground staff recently voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action over potential changes to TfL’s pension schemes.

As part of the funding deal agreed with the Government in the summer, TfL agreed to undertake an independent review of its pension schemes which Transport Secretary Grant Shapps called “generous”.

With London’s commuters potentially facing more misery in the new year with multiple strikes on the cards, Sadiq Khan has pleaded with unions “don’t punish Londoners”.

Mr Khan said: “Strikes are always a sign of failure. I think you should try and resolve these things amicably around a table.

“I think everyone knows the financial challenges TfL has because the Government is not supporting us.

“It isn’t TfL’s fault, it isn’t TfL management’s fault, it isn’t City Hall’s fault, and so what I say to any trade union is: don’t punish Londoners, don’t punish TfL because of tough decisions we’ve got to make. TfL will always consult with unions.

“I’m someone who is pro trade unionist, I can see the difference good trade unions make to the quality of life of their members but also to passengers as well.

“As a proud trade unionist, I’d say to any trade union, where there is a difference get around the table and let’s resolve this amicably.”

But Mr Khan has also come under fire from Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite which is one of Labour’s biggest union backers.

After the Mayor of London said that Night Tube strikes were “unnecessary” and had caused “widespread disruption”, Ms Graham tweeted that “it’s about time [Sadiq Khan] did the right thing and stood up for workers not just at election time but when it matters”.

Last week, Sharon Graham announced that Unite would be cutting political donations to the Labour party and instead use the money to fund union campaigns.

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