Tube dispute: unions advance but no agreement yet

THE JOINT trade unions involved in the long-running London Underground dispute over staffing and safety when plans for 24-hour operation are implemented, have called off their strike to begin on Tuesday this week, but added new strike dates for September.

RMT announced on Monday that the negotiating teams at Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) have made significant progress.

The unions has made it clear to London Underground that they remain in dispute and further strike action will be taken on the 8th and 10th September unless London Underground management meets their concerns over staffing and safety.

RMT has also made it clear that they will take further industrial action if there are moves to run test trains or if there is any attempt to impose Night Tube operations.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “Our negotiators have been able to make enough significant progress in talks at Acas over pay, jobs and Night Tube to allow us to suspend this week’s strike dates. We have still not reached a final agreement and as a result we are putting on additional strike action on next month. In the meantime, the talks process will continue.

“I want to pay tribute to the union members who have remained united and rock solid throughout this dispute. It is their determination which forced LU to begin talking seriously and which has enabled us to make the progress that we have so far.

“Our dispute is not with the working class of London and RMT is not opposed to Night Tube providing it is introduced properly with safe and robust staffing arrangements which recognise the substantial extra pressures that this expansion will inevitably create.”

The dispute has already involved two all-out strikes that have seen transport in London grid-locked. TSSA leader Manuel Cortes said: “I am extremely pleased to say that our negotiating team has made sufficient progress to suspend this week’s planned strike action on the Tube.

“However, we are not out of the woods yet. A number of issues need to be resolved before our dispute is finally settled. We will therefore announce future strike dates in due course although we remain hopeful that further talks will soon result in a negotiated settlement”.

The giant general union Unite, which has more than 400 members working on London Underground, said it had suspended the strike action due to start on 25th August and 27th August as a gesture of goodwill to allow for further talks. Unite regional officer Hugh Roberts said: “There are still some remaining sticking points, but we feel sufficient progress has been made to suspend industrial action as an act of goodwill.

“We will continue to approach talks with London Underground in a positive manner. We trust that London Underground management seize this opportunity to reach a deal that fully addresses our members’ concerns and secures a successful future for night running on the Tube.”

Meanwhile in a separate dispute between RMT and First Great Western Trains — again over staffing and safety linked to the introduction of new rolling stock — pickets were out early on Sunday morning and the planned strike that went ahead was “rock solid”.

Mick Cash, RMT general secretary said: “The action today is being solidly supported across First Great Western and the union salutes the unity and determination of our members in this long-running dispute.

“Although we have held many hours of talks with First Great Western we have not been able to make enough significant progress over the core issues at the heart of the dispute — drivers being forced to take over door and despatch functions, which downgrades the safety-critical role of guards, removal of catering services and the threat to jobs among the train maintenance engineers.

“The union remains available for further talks next week as we push for a fair resolution that protects jobs, services and safety.”