The RMT union has called a tube strike from Tuesday to Friday next week. The low turnout means that only 44% of RMT members voted in favour of strike action – but they are going ahead anyway. Notionally it is about demands from RMT members working for Tube Lines to have the same travel concessions as TfL staff and to be able to join the TfL pension scheme.
What should be done is to scale back the travel concessions to TfL staff. At present 20,000 free passes for travel in London go to "families and friends" of TfL staff. Lib Dem London Assembly member Mike Tuffrey calls it a "boondoggle." Similarly the last thing needed is for tube investment to be cancelled to pay for an expanded pension deficit.
The strike is clearly timed, a week before the Mayoral election, to try and undermine Boris Johnson. Labour will highlight his failure to negotiate a no strike agreement.
The problem for Ken Livingstone is that he can't even bring himself to condemn the strike – let alone support measures to curb union power. When Livingstone was Mayor he appointed Bob Crow to the board of TfL. Despite Livingstone policy of capitulation to the most outrageous union demands the tube was still closed with strikes for 17 days when he was Mayor.
Under Raab's Law – which Boris has called on the Government to implement – strikes in transport services would only be legal if over 50% of the unionised workforce voted for them. London Labour MPs made a point of voting down this Private Member's Bill. But London's commuters would prefer it to have been implemented.
In his Transport Manifesto, Boris says:
Londoners should no longer be held to ransom by union barons. I will pave the way to the first driverless (although not unmanned) trains within a decade by accelerating a programme to introduce automation on theTube. I will also ensure that TfL never orders a new train for London Underground with an old fashioned drivercab.