Last minute talks on Tuesday afternoon between London Underground managers and the underground’s biggest union, RMT, failed to avert a 48-hour strike that was due to start just before 7pm.
The two sides met at Acas, the arbitration service, in an attempt to resolve the dispute, which focuses pay.
Bob Crow, RMT general secretary, said in a statement: “RMT negotiators spent all afternoon and early evening at ACAS putting together a deal which could have settled the dispute only for London Undergound to bring in lawyers at the last minute who pulled the rug from under a workable agreement. The strike goes ahead and we know that it will receive solid support from RMT members across the tube network.”
LU had offered unions either a 1.5 per cent pay rise this year, followed by a guaranteed 0.5 per cent above retail price inflation in each of the following three years or 1 per cent this year and 0.5 per cent above RPI the following year.
Although LU insists some increase is guaranteed even if RPI turns negative, the RMT claims the deal on offer could lead to real-terms pay cuts for staff.
The union is also angry over a cost-cutting programme due to lead to thousands of job losses. LU says it has given all the assurances it can that compulsory redundancies will be avoided but the union claims managers are disregarding existing agreements about compulsory redundancies.
Most of the job losses are a result of the removal of job duplication following LU’s takeover of Metronet Rail, the public-private partnership contractor that collapsed into administration in July 2007. Many back-office functions were duplicated between LU and Metronet, which was responsible for maintaining and upgrading track, trains and stations on two-thirds of the underground network.
RMT has also linked the strike action to its demands for reinstatement of two sacked staff, one of whom was sacked after opening doors on the wrong side of a train on the Victoria Line, the other of whom faced theft allegations.
The worst-disrupted event is expected to be England’s Football World Cup qualifying match against Andorra at Wembley on Wednesday. Most fans arrive at Wembley Stadium at Wembley Park station on the Jubilee and Metropolitan lines and there are concerns that, if fans arrived in large numbers by car, it could become impossible for the emergency services to reach the stadium in the event of problems.
However, the Football Association insisted the match would not be played behind closed doors, as had been suggested might be necessary. Travel home for fans watching Tuesday’s New Zealand v South Africa match in the World Twenty20 cricket competition at Lord’s could also be disrupted.
Transport for London, LU’s parent organisation, has arranged extra river services, for up to 100 extra buses to operate and Oyster cards to be accepted on all mainline rail services.
The strike days could also see some of the highest levels of cycle use in London in recent years, after the London Cycling Campaign organised a series or organised mass rides on key routes into Central London.
In addition, a marshalled, fixed-fare, shared-taxi service will operate on Wednesday and Thursday mornings from Waterloo, King’s Cross, Liverpool Street, London Bridge, Marylebone, Paddington and Euston stations.
TfL has advised passengers to visit its website for the latest information.