London Tube Faces Four-Day Walkout as Unions Turn Up Heat

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London Underground Commuters

London Underground Commuters

Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

London’s subway system faces four successive days of strikes later this month as unions demanding improved terms for operating a new night-time service seek to crank up pressure on Mayor Boris Johnson.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union will stage back-to-back 24-hour strikes starting on Aug. 25, it said in an e-mailed statement Tuesday, with members of Unite and TSSA joining in over a similar period. Drivers union Aslef said it will continue talks Wednesday and doesn’t currently plan to join the strike.

The world’s oldest subway was closed completely during two shorter walkouts by the RMT and three other unions over Johnson’s Night Tube plans during July and August, leaving millions of commuters struggling to get to work on crowded buses and surface trains and snarling roads with extra traffic.

Subway workers have been offered a 2 percent pay increase this year and at least 1 percent in 2016 to back the Night Tube, plus a 500-pound ($779) 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 into account the impact on personal lives.

“Our members the length and breadth of London Underground have made it clear that they are determined to protect their work-life balance and not fall into a trap where they will be forced to wreck their home lives,” RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said in the latest statement.

New Demands

London Underground Ltd. said in response that the RMT on Monday made “further demands for unaffordable pay rises and the hiring of even more staff.” Those terms would reverse the modernization of customer service at stations, many of which are due to see ticket booths close, leaving a funding short-fall of hundreds of millions of pounds to be paid for in fares.

Aslef, which backs the Night Tube concept in principle, will meet with London Underground at the state-sponsored Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, an official said. Failure to agree terms could still see members strike.

The new walkouts are likely to close the Tube on Aug. 26 and Aug. 28, based on the previous level of disruption, with the possibility of some trains running on Aug. 27. It’s not clear what the impact of Aslef drivers reporting for work might be.

Both sides in the dispute say they’re open to talks. Cash has called on Johnson to drop his rule of not conferring with trade bodies and let unions present their concerns directly.

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