London Tube strike: RMT announces crippling 24-hour action on day after Jubilee weekend

·5 min read
London Tube strike: RMT announces crippling 24-hour action on day after Jubilee weekend

A Tube union is planning a network-wide strike on the London Underground and a ban on staff working overtime over the Queen’s platinum bank holiday weekend, the Evening Standard can reveal.

The RMT is to call up to 4,000 station staff out on strike on Monday June 6, the day that many Londoners would be returning to work after the four-day jubilee celebrations.

The action will start a minute after midnight and last for 24 hours.

It also announced an overtime ban from next Friday, June 3 - the second day of the celebrations - until July 10.

This is a dramatic escalation of its dispute with Transport for London over feared threats to staff pensions and concerns that the loss of up to 600 station posts will lead to remaining staff having to work more unsociable hours or be left alone in stations at night.

The walkout, which will also involve revenue protection officers belonging to the RMT but not Tube drivers, is separate to a much smaller walkout planned for Friday June 3 at Euston and Green Park stations.

The strike threatens to cripple the entire Underground to an extent not seen since March, when two 24-hour network-wide protests caused widespread chaos. More than 200 stations were shut and passenger numbers falling to just four per cent of normal, losing TfL £13m in fares income.

The June 6 action is likely to force the closure of almost all stations in zone 1 but “above ground” stations can remain open, meaning shuttle services to and from the suburbs may run.

However TfL will have to consider whether all stations have to be closed on safety grounds if all 4,000 RMT members entitied to take part in the action choose to strike.

TfL insists that no-one will lose their job as the reduction in posts will be achieved through not replacing staff who have already left the Tube or who retire or find another job.

A review of TfL’s staff pension scheme that was published in March found reforming it could save TfL up to £182.4m a year.

However, changes would take “years not months” to implement and it could be even longer before any savings were realised, the review said.

About 15,000 Tube staff are currently receiving an 8.4 per cent pay rise. Last week mayor Sadiq Khan said the RMT’s decision to take action over the jubilee weekend “sent the wrong message”.

Andy Lord, TfL’s chief operating officer, said on Monday: “We are extremely disappointed that the RMT has announced unnecessary strike action on June 6 and share Londoners’ frustrations that this, and the linked action short of strike, has been designed to disrupt the Jubilee weekend.

“It is particularly surprising that the RMT has threatened to spoil this moment when the nation is coming together as nobody has or will lose their jobs as a result of the proposals we have set out and there have been no proposals on pension changes.

“If the RMT chooses to go ahead with this unnecessary action, we will do everything we can to minimise any disruption and ensure everyone can still make the most of the capital throughout the Jubilee weekend.

“The devastating impact of the pandemic on TfL finances has made a programme of change urgently necessary but this change is being delivered in a way that ensures nobody loses their jobs so we’re calling on the RMT to work with us, rather than disrupting London’s recovery and our customers, who deserve better. We’ve been in regular talks with the RMT and are hoping to find an urgent resolution to this dispute to ensure they can call off this unnecessary action.”

But RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “TfL is trying to bulldoze through 600 job losses on London Underground and our members are not prepared to accept that.

“Station staff play a crucial role in serving the travelling public and were heroes during the 7/7 terrorist attacks.

“Instead of seeking to cut jobs, TfL and Mayor Sadiq Khan need to put further pressure on the government to secure increased funding for the network so we can have a properly staffed modern 21st century Tube.”

No formal proposals to change TfL pension benefits have been published. The review, by former TUC chief Sir Brendan Barber, did not recommend a “precise route forward” but set out a series of issues to be considered by TfL, the pension trustees and the Government.

It said the pension scheme was likely to record a “modest surplus” for 2021 and was not under “immediate financial pressure” but “longer-term pressures and uncertainties persist for TfL”.

At present, TfL staff pay in five per cent of their salary – while TfL contributes 26.9 per cent.

When the pension scheme launched, employer contributions were 2.5 times those of employees, but this has grown to around 5.5 times – leading to concerns about the cost to TfL.

The review said modifying the final salary scheme could save between £79.3m to £182.4m, while switching to a “CARE” (Career Average Revalued Earnings) scheme could save up to £154.4m – or could increase TfL’s costs by up to £23.1m.

It said the cost of the final salary scheme could be reduced by increasing the normal retirement age, for example by linking it to the state pension age of 68 by 2046, limiting the amount of any pay increase that is pensionable or increasing member contributions.

But it warned that the pension scheme was “just about the only benefit of employment above and beyond employees’ salaries and travel concessions” and it was highly valued by staff.

TfL says that any pension reforms would be subject to consultation with all stakeholders, including staff and trade unions.

The organisation has been required to find £500m of savings on the Tube and to match staffing levels with lower passenger numbers.

However weekday commuters have been returning to the Tube and hit a post-pandemic high of 73 per cent of “normal” two Thursdays ago.

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