London

Why are we on the verge of another Tube strike?

  • 28 April 2014
  • From the section London
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Roped off tube train during strike
A deal was supposed to have been settled in February after the last strikes

Many will be baffled as to why a deal on the Tube strike - supposedly settled in February - has now unravelled.

This dispute is about ticket office closures which the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union opposes. Its members will now strike tonight.

London Underground LU wants staff in the ticket halls as it says new technology has made ticket offices underused. It wants ticket halls to become "customer service centres" with ticketing machines.

The RMT wants a station by station review to see if there is any merit in some being saved.

Commuters queue for buses outside Victoria Station during the last strike
There was widespread disruption during the last strike in February

It thought it had got an assurance from LU but for whatever reason an actual review of closures - as opposed to staffing in the ticket halls - hasn't happened.

LU seems to blame a lack of ideas and engagement from the RMT.

Instead of ticket offices, LU says it will have a handful of visitor centres.

Help desk

From what I gather, this will be a help desk also with ticketing machines, like we see at Network Rail stations. Could we see more of these? Could the RMT be persuaded to regard these at ticket offices?

What also muddies the water is all the unions - RMT TSSA, Unite and ASLEF - are involved in consultation talks as well. These other talks seem to have created some changes from LU mainly about the staffing process.

You have to remember this restructuring will cause 950 job losses.

London Underground has said: "LU has guaranteed that not a single member of staff will be forced to leave the company as a result of plans to modernise customer service on the Tube.

Anger and uncertainty

"There will also be no compulsory redundancies and LU is seeking ways to ensure no member of staff sees their pay cut as a result of the changes proposed."

But there is still anger amongst staff and uncertainty. Some will have to apply for another job. Some jobs will change. Some will have to move area. Some fear loss of pay."

Also, to facilitate more staff at the busier stations, quieter stations -called "local" stations by LU - will become staffed by just one person. The number of lone working stations will double. The unions aren't happy about that.

What also complicates this is the RMT are in the process of an election for a general secretary.

Bob Crow

I have been assured by the RMT that it has no bearing on this dispute but there's no doubt the absence of Bob Crow changes the landscape.

And everyone in the London transport world has a theory on what impact that has on the talks.

Are LU out to crush the RMT? Are the RMT candidates trying to bolster their credentials? Are the politics now being put way above the passenger?

Also don't forget the dispute of 2010 over reducing ticket offices opening hours.

Those changes went through despite RMT /TSSA strikes. All of the above overshadow these talks.

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