Pressure mounts on mayor Sadiq Khan to step in over London Underground strike action

Rebecca Smith
Sadiq Khan has urged the RMT and TfL to reach an agreement
Sadiq Khan has urged the RMT and TfL to reach an agreement (Source: Getty)

London mayor Sadiq Khan is facing calls to step in over prospective strike action on the London Underground.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union announced earlier today that thousands of its members had voted in favour of industrial action.

The RMT said that balloting on two disputes had resulted in workers supporting strike action.

The turnout among 400 Piccadilly Line drivers was 49 per cent and on the other ballot of over 3,000 station workers, there was a 33 per cent turnout.

Of those that voted on the Piccadilly matter, 84 per cent voted for strike action, and 87 per cent for action short of strike. On the other dispute, 85 per cent voted for strike action and 94 per cent for action short of a strike.

Read more: Thousands of London Underground staff vote to go on strike, says RMT

Conservative London Assembly member and deputy chair of the Transport Committee Keith Prince said: “The mayor needs to prevent another Tube strike Groundhog Day by backing plans for binding pendulum arbitration, forcing both sides to act as reasonably as possible during negotiations and preventing strikes.” He added that Khan “has a duty to intervene”.

“The mayor promised there would be ‘zero days of strikes’ on his watch, yet he is currently on course to have a record worse than both of his predecessors,” Prince added.

There were a total of 35 strikes under mayor Boris Johnson, compared to 16 with his predecessor, Ken Livingstone.

Figures obtained by City A.M. revealed that Tube drivers took nearly 52,000 sick days last year; the highest level in five years. That worked out at almost 1,000 days in sick leave per week in a year plagued with Tube strike threats over Night Tube disputes and working conditions rows.

The RMT said the former dispute was over a "wholesale breakdown" of industrial relations on the line, while it said the latter was over the closure of ticket offices.

Results will now be considered by the union’s executive committee. While dates haven’t yet been set for strike action, it looks as if they will be in the run-up to Christmas, causing havoc for commuters.

An RMT spokesperson told City A.M.: “The mayor has to take responsibility for what’s going on; he’s the chair of TfL and needs to take the concerns we’ve raised seriously.” The fact members “voted overwhelmingly” in favour of action showed “he can’t ignore the ballot and the anger there is on the ground”, according to the union representative.

Read more: Sadiq Khan has named London's first night czar

Transport for London (TfL) has talks planned at arbitration service Acas next week “to discuss the RMT’s concerns on the Piccadilly line”.

A spokesperson for the mayor said: “In his manifesto, the mayor pledged to reduce the number of days lost to strike action. He is urging the RMT to work with TfL to find resolution to this disagreement so that London passengers don’t face disruption in the coming weeks.”

Earlier today, the Transport Salaried Staff’s Association (TSSA) also announced that hundreds of its members working on the London Underground will be balloted this week, which it says is over safety standards.

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