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Tube strike to go ahead after last ditch talks fail

08:17 04 February 2014

Staff are striking over plans to close ticket offices (Picture: Nick Ansell)

Staff are striking over plans to close ticket offices (Picture: Nick Ansell)

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Talks to avert strike action beginning tonight on the Tube have ended without any agreement, with union bosses offering to meet Boris Johnson “anytime, anywhere” to try to reach a deal.

It means members of the Rail Maritime and Transport union (RMT) and the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) are a step closer to walking out at around 9.30pm, until Friday morning, and then again at the same time next week.

The last ditch talks aimed at preventing the strike, a response by the unions to plans to close more than 260 ticket offices across the Tube network, were held throughout the day yesterday at the conciliation service Acas, but there was no breakthrough.

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes offered to meet London Mayor Boris Johnson “anytime, anywhere” in the next 24 hours to try and reach a face to face deal to halt the strike.

He said: “It became increasingly clear over the past six days that Boris has been refusing to allow his negotiating team to enter into serious talks over his wholesale ticket office closure programme.

“We now want to sit down with the organ grinder himself and reach a deal that will keep our Tube services running.

“We will suspend the action if he suspends the threat to 953 jobs. He is determined to pick a fight with us to further his long term political career regardless of the damage to our Tube network. He should put the travelling public ahead of desire to become Tory party leader,” said Mr Cortes.

The news comes after days of fraught talks, during which the unions have accused Boris Johnson and Transport for London of holding “a gun” to their head over ticket office closures, which they say would lead to almost 1,000 job losses.

The Mayor, Boris Johnson, has accused the unions of “trying to hold the capital to ransom” and said he would only meet them if the strikes were called off.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow today told a news conference: “We are prepared to suspend the industrial action if the Mayor is prepared to suspend the job losses.

“In the meantime, the action remains on. These cuts will be followed by more and more cuts unless we do something about it.”

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said Mr Crow had told him he would contact him today.

“Well Bob, you haven’t rung. That suggests, sadly, that Bob Crow is determined to strike, even though a massive 70 per cent of his own members don’t even back him.

“Here’s the truth: no one will face compulsory redundancy under these plans - indeed we’ve had more expressions of interest in voluntary redundancy than we need; 82 per cent of Londoners back TfL’s modernisation plans; ticket offices are used by just 3 per cent of customers and falling; and these changes will put more staff on platforms and station concourses, not less.

“The bottom line, and Bob knows it, is that these strikes will achieve nothing.

And Speaking after today’s talks, LU chief operating officer Phil Hufton said: “We proposed a cooling-off period which would have seen the unions lift their threat of strike action while we would extend our formal consultation period and continue talks at Acas.

“However, the leaderships of the RMT and TSSA continue to threaten strikes. This is despite our commitment that all Tube stations will remain staffed and controlled at all times when services are operating. In future, there will be more staff in ticket halls and on platforms to help customers buy the right ticket, plan their journeys and to keep them safe and secure.

“We’re committed to implement these changes without compulsory redundancies and that there’ll be a job for everyone at LU who wants to work for us and be flexible.”

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