Station staff on London Underground are to take industrial action in February in their fight to keep ticket offices open. Mayor Boris Johnson is seeking to close all of the 260 ticket offices on the capital’s network by 2015 – a direct reversal of the policy on which he was elected.
The action follows a ballot of RMT union members in which 77 per cent voted for the action. The first wave will see action from Tuesday 4 February until Friday 14 February with two 36-hour strikes, while in between the strikes staff will refuse to carry out “revenue collection duties”.
The dispute, said RMT general secretary Bob Crow, is “wholly about cash-led cuts plans that would see the axing of nearly a thousand safety critical jobs and the closure of ticket offices at a time when the tube network is under growing pressure from customer demand and needs more staff and not less to ensure safe and efficient operation”.
The effect of the action could be heightened if coordinated with strikes on the Docklands Light Railway, run by Serco. In January the RMT reported that its members had voted by more than 9 to 1 in favour of industrial action over stalled pay talks, abuse of disciplinary and attendance procedures, the use of agency and contract staff to undermine conditions, and failures in training and promotion procedures.
In October last year an opinion poll by Survation revealed that 71 per cent of tube users (and 81 per cent of tourists) were concerned about ticket offices being closed down – and that 52 per cent had experienced being unable to buy tickets because a machine was broken.
• Londoners face years of above-inflation fare increases, according to research uncovered by the RMT. In what the union calls a “ticking bombshell”, the small print of Transport for London’s Draft Business plan for the next ten years, presented to the Transport for London Board on 11 December, reveals that after 2014 fares will be going up in excess of inflation until 2021.
The Plan says, “The Mayor announced his decision on fare increases for January 2014 on 3 December; this will be an average of RPI+0%. For the purposes of this Business Plan, annual increases of RPI+1% have been assumed for future years. The actual increases for these future years will be decided by the Mayor in due course.”
Bob Crow said: “The Mayor’s entire transport strategy is dependent on above inflation fare increases for seven years tied in to a programme of job cuts, attacks on safety and the closures of ticket offices that will combine together to make services a no-go zone for the vulnerable, low-paid, those with disabilities and women travelling alone late at night.” ■