Millions of Londoners face a disrupted journey home as subway workers strike over pay grades on a new night service.
Talks between London Underground and four labor groups failed to reach an agreement, with the RMT union describing a wage offer linked to Mayor Boris Johnson’s plans to run Tube services all day as “divisive and unacceptable.”
Members of the RMT, Unite and the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association walked out for 24 hours at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Transport for London said on its website, with train drivers from the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen joining the dispute at 9:30 p.m.
“It’s just not right that a strike should go ahead when there’s a very good deal on the table,” Johnson said on LBC radio. “It’s extraordinary the union leadership have not put this offer back to their members. We’ve had no response.”
London’s subway has endured a series of disruptions over the past 18 months -- including a 48-hour walkout last year that drove away almost 50 percent of the passengers -- after Johnson announced plans to introduce 24-hour running and boost daytime frequencies, while closing some ticket offices.
Transport for London, which oversees the Tube and reports to Johnson, began halting trains from 6 p.m. and said there’ll be no services Thursday, with some knock-on effect into Friday. Overground rail, trams and the Docklands Light Railway are running as normal and there are 200 extra buses, though services will be much busier, as will the roads, according to TfL, which urged people to avoid peak hours.
Londoners “overwhelmingly back the Night Tube,” which will run on Fridays and Saturdays on five lines, according to London Undergound Chief Operating Officer Steve Griffiths, who said the service will mean those staff affected turning out a few extra nights a year, with no extra hours.
In return, the operator is offering a 2 percent average pay increase this year, followed by a raise equal to inflation or 1 percent -- whichever is higher -- in 2016 and 2017. There’ll also be a 500-pound ($772) bonus for all staff on Night Tube lines and 2,000 pounds for train operators, it said.
The RMT said London Underground’s offer of a lump sum to a minority of workers was a “cynical” bid to play individuals off against each other. It added that the deal would be “financed off the back of the proposed axing of over 800 safety-critical station jobs” as station staff are cut and ticket offices closed.
The Tube has 270 stations, with 57,000 people using the busiest, Waterloo, during the three-hour morning peak. Passengers typically make 3 million daily journeys.