London’s subway network will avoid a shutdown tonight after union leaders called off a two-day strike over ticket-office closures and more than 750 job cuts.
The Rail, Maritime & Transport union and Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association suspended the action pending further discussions in response to the emergence of what the RMT described as proposals halting the implementation of staff cuts.
“We are now in a position to move on with the clear understanding that our action is suspended,” RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said in a statement. “We now have a golden opportunity to look again in detail at all of the concerns we have raised about the impact of the cuts on our members.”
Before the breakthrough in talks brokered by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, the RMT and TSSA had been instructing members to strike for 48 hours from 9 p.m. Unions aim to overturn Mayor Boris Johnson’s plan to scrap booths as people switch to Oyster cards that open gates automatically.
Johnson’s revamp, which includes 24-hour services on some lines at weekends from 2015, would retain offices at five central subway stations plus Heathrow. Transport for London, which oversees the subway or Tube, says more staff would be based on platforms and concourses, communicating via tablet computers, and that all stops would be manned while trains run.
London Underground proposed two months of intensive talks to assess plans station by station, it said in a statement, adding that the process might lead more booths to be kept open. During that time there will be no further industrial action.
Crow said in the release from the RMT that “if there is any further attempt to impose change from above the action will go back on.”
The subway, which usually carries more than 3.3 million people on weekdays, operated more than one-third of its usual services on Feb. 6, the second day of an initial two-day walkout last week, connecting with 75 percent of stations.
The London Chamber of Commerce estimated the daily economic of industrial action on the Tube at 50 million pounds ($82 million).