Union suspends Tube strike after last-ditch talks

Kasmira Jefford
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A PLANNED three-day strike by London Underground (LU) workers was called off yesterday just hours before it was due to take place, after both sides called a truce.

Members of the RMT union were set to walk out at 9pm last night in a row over LU’s plan to close all Tube ticket offices and cut 950 jobs.

The dispute led to a two-day strike last week, causing chaos for millions of Londoners and lengthy queues outside stations and bus stops.

This followed February’s walkouts, which led to the recent negotiations. The two sides have met over 40 times in an attempt to reach a deal.

The RMT’s acting general secretary Mick Cash said talks this weekend had led to “real movement and significant progress” being made.

“Pre-conditions have been removed, protection of earnings has been agreed and we now have a viable framework for a proper review of the cuts and closures programme,” Cash said yesterday.

LU’s chief operating officer Phil Hufton said he was “pleased that Londoners will not have to endure further strike action this week”.

He said ticket offices were used in less than three per cent of journeys and claimed that their closure would deliver “vastly better customer service” by bringing more staff onto station platforms and ticket machines.

Transport for London (TfL) is targeting £4.2bn of cuts by 2020. By closing all the ticket offices, LU estimates it can save £50m a year.

London Mayor Boris Johnson said: “This is a victory for common sense and for Londoners. The RMT leadership has finally seen that their tactics aren’t working.”

Mick Cash served for 12 years as deputy to the RMT’s leader Bob Crow and was put in charge following the 52-year-old’s death last month.

Union members will vote over the next few months on a successor, with Cash one of the strongest contenders for the post. But he is also considered one of the more moderate left-wing candidates and union members may decide to pick a more radical successor.

Despite being backed by Crow, Cash has not always had the support from the rest of his peers. In 2003, there were calls to oust Cash from Labour’s national executive committee, which failed after Crow came to his defence.

A successful outcome from the talks with LU could help Cash win favour with RMT voters and put him in good stead for winning the top job.

Mike Brown first joined London Underground (LU) in 1989, managing train cleaners at the Tube’s Neasden depot, in north west London. He was then made station manager at Baker Street before rising through the ranks to become chief operating officer in 2003.

He left in 2008 to run Heathrow Airport but returned two years later to take up the reins at LU after his predecessor Tim O'Toole unexpectedly resigned.

Brown was also appointed managing director of London Rail later that year and is also responsible for London Overground, Docklands Light Railway and London Tramlink.

Over the last four years managing the Underground’s 11 Tube lines on a tight budget, some of Brown’s biggest projects include overseeing the revamp of the Victoria line and the £700m refurbishment of Victoria station that will double capacity when it completed in 2018.

Brown holds a degree in economics and MBA from Queen's University in Belfast, where he was born.