Tube strike: Can the dispute be resolved?

Mind the Gap Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Can the distance between London Underground and the unions be bridged?

These talks have been going on for months at a secret location at a hotel in London.

During that time progress has been slow - there have been offers, new offers and revised offers and still the strikes are happening. The latest takes place on Wednesday night for 24 hours.

Four unions representing 20,000 workers have been at the talks and without those workers there is no Tube service.

The Tube is going through some of the biggest changes in its history, and at the same time it is carrying the most passengers ever.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The 24-hour strike from the evening of 5 August will mean no Tube services

Ticket offices have been shut, jobs have been cut and staff are being redeployed.

Ticket Offices are very rapidly being turned into retail outlets - Embankment station now has a top end gift shop but no ticket office.

London Underground (LU) says it is because contactless cards and Oyster are now what most travellers use and it wants staff on the gate lines.

And on top of that, on 12 September, the Night Tube service is meant to start on Friday and Saturday nights.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The last strike on 9 July saw big queues for buses across London

So while this is on the surface about the introduction of 24-hour Tube and pay and conditions, it is really about the culmination of big continued changes being forced onto workers.

During the last dispute over those ticket office closures the largest drivers' union ASLEF didn't go out on strike.

That meant the impact of the strike was reduced with LU able to run around 40% of services.

Now with this 24-hour Tube dispute, ASLEF is involved as they have concerns over the work-life balance of drivers.

Image copyright TfL
Image caption The Night Tube is set to begin on five lines on 12 September

So the old issues like cuts to staffing at ticket offices, unpaid higher grade working and redeployment of staff have combined with the new issue of drivers' rosters.

There is also concern 'framework' agreements covering staff conditions are being disposed of.

The interesting thing is LU didn't need to introduce 24-hour Tube. The company combined the announcement of the closure of ticket offices with the Night Tube.

Workers 'extremely angry'

Many at the time said it was a cynical attempt to put a positive spin on the size of ticket office closures.

They should be separate issues completely, but as LU brought the two ideas together, it is no surprise they have combined again.

London Underground has effectively combined the power of all of the unions and all of their separate grievances.

That means this mess will take longer to resolve, if indeed it can be sorted out., and many workers are extremely angry.

So what now? Will LU change tack? Delays to 24-hour Tube have already been outlined. Will the solidarity of the four unions break?

We have already had one strike and if nothing changes you can easily see more on the Tube.

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