Sadiq Khan says ‘talking is better than walking’ as he urges unions to call off Elizabeth line strike
Sadiq Khan has urged rail unions to call off their planned strike on the Elizabeth line this week and encouraged them to get back to the negotiating table, saying that “talking is better than walking.”
Rail platform workers on the line from unions TSSA and Prospect are set to down tools on Thursday after rejecting an offer of a 8.4 per cent salary increase over two years.
No services will run in the central section of the line, between Abbey Wood and Paddington, with short-notice cancellations expected on the east and west ends of the line.
“There’s no need for the strike to take place this Thursday,” the mayor told City A.M. today. “I’d encourage the unions to please, please, please talk to Transport for London (TfL).”
“Talking is better than walking,” he said.
Khan’s words were echoed by TfL’s interim commissioner Andy Lord, who took over on 25 October last year after Andy Byford’s stepped down.
Lord told City A.M. talks with TSSA and Prospect were still ongoing.
“I hope unions will recognise the offer that we have put on the table is a fair and reasonable offer,” Lord said.
“We encourage the unions to consider that, call off the industrial action and avoid the disruption,” he said. “I really hope the unions will work with us and call the strike off.”
Prospect’s general secretary Mike Clancy told City A.M. that the strikes will be called off when there is a “substantive movement on the current pay offer and on closing the pay gap with London Underground and other rail operators.”
“The Elizabeth Line is supposed to be London’s flagship so why are its workers being rewarded with pay rises half the rest of the network?,” he said.
“It’s unsustainable and if it doesn’t change people will simply choose to work elsewhere.”
Khan’s comments come after rail minister Huw Merriman had “constructive talks” with the unions RMT and Aslef, in a last-ditch effort to solve the wider ongoing rail dispute that has plagued the UK for the past seven months.
Workers at Network Rail and 15 other train operators walked out last week as part of a long-standing dispute over pay and jobs.
The industrial action, which took place between Tuesday and Saturday, cost the rail industry £110m, according to Network Rail.
Khan told City A.M. he was hoping for a swift resolution of the wider rail dispute because strikes “benefit nobody.”
“Negotiation is the way to respond, not legislation,” the mayor said in a swipe at the government’s proposed anti-strikes legislation.
The bill, introduced to Parliament today, will ensure that there are minimum service levels during strike days in vital public sector areas, such as rail, fire and ambulance services.
The controversial bill, which has been in discussion since the summer, sparked outrage from unions, who deemed it an attack of civil liberties.