Millions of Londoners struggled to get to work for the second time in a month on Thursday as a strike by subway drivers pushing back against Mayor Boris Johnson’s plans for an all-night service closed the network.
London Underground halted trains at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and the Tube won’t open again until Friday morning after the coordinated walkout involving four unions. Commuters turned to river boats, rental cycles and 250 extra buses, 50 more than in the last strike July 8, with thousands of others staying home.
Subway workers have been offered a 2 percent pay increase this year and at least 1 percent in 2016 as part of the Night Tube plan, plus a 500-pound ($775) bonus on affected lines and a 2,000-pound lump sum for drivers. Unions say proposals for the service, due to operate on five lines at weekends from Sept. 12, don’t take account of disruption to personal lives.
“This dispute is not about money, it’s about being able to plan for and enjoy some downtime with friends and family away from work,” Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said in a statement. “It’s obvious to most people that if you expand and extend a service then you need more staff and not less.”
Cash called for a direct meeting with Johnson, saying the mayor should drop his rule of not conferring with trade bodies and allow representatives to present their concerns about a plan that he described as the Mayor’s “personal project.”
Transport for London, which oversees London Underground and reports to Johnson, said all other travel options will be “much busier than usual,” with commuter trains, the London Overground and Docklands Light Railway running at full capacity.
Extra trams, airport coaches and Thames river boats will run throughout the day and seven additional hubs will be set up for “Boris Bike” rental cycles. “Travel Ambassadors” will also be available with maps to direct those who have chosen to go by foot, TfL said.
The RMT, along with the Unite, Aslef and TSSA unions, have refused London Underground’s most recent offer tied to the Night Tube, which guarantees to extra working hours and at least 43 days of holiday.
Held to Ransom
“They put the whole country at ransom,” Rosemary Sinclair, who hosts business guests for companies including Banco Santander SA and KPMG, said late Wednesday while heading home in a BMW 420Si convertible. Sinclair took Thursday off to avoid spending the day on clogged-up streets in central London.
Officials remain open to talks with the unions, according to Nick Brown, managing director of London Underground.
“Unions have demanded more money, the hiring of even more staff –- including for ticket offices that customers no longer use -– and a 32-hour, four-day week,” he said Wednesday. “No employer can afford to meet those sorts of demands.”
Web searches for hotels and accommodation in the capital fell by almost a quarter during July’s 24-hour strike, with a similar impact expected this week, Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive officer of the British Hospitality Association, said by e-mail.
“London needs the new round-the-clock tube service on weekends as soon as possible,” she said. “It is essential to keep up with global cities like New York and Berlin.”