London Mayor Sadiq Khan accuses government of ‘inciting’ Tube strike as row over worker pay deepens

London Mayor Sadiq Khan. Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Sadiq Khan has accused the government of “inciting” next week’s Tube strike, as more workers are set to be balloted for industrial action in growing disputes over pay and jobs.The London Mayor is urging Tube and rail workers' unions to resume talks with Transport for London (TfL) and halt the strikes, and is blaming the government for the coming chaos.

Next week's walk-outs are set to inflict transport misery up and down the country, as tens of thousands of rail workers strike on three separate days.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) and Unite union are also staging a Tube strike on Tuesday 21 June, adding to the impact of the first day of the rail strikes.

TfL has warned people not to travel on Tuesday as the combined effect of the strikes is set to bring the capital grinding to a halt.

The RMT will also be taking strike action on Network Rail (NR) and across 13 train operators on June 21, 23 and 25, which will lead to huge numbers of services being cancelled.

The rail strikes are expected to have a knock-on effect on the capital's transport network throughout the week, transport bosses have warned.

As the strikes loomed, Mr Khan claimed on Friday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps were “whipping up” division over a funding deal for TfL.

He said: “At the core of this is the government… orchestrating and engineering and inciting a strike in London by attaching these conditions to the funding deal, which has got the trade unions really concerned.

“The Tories are in government and this is classic deflecting from Shapps and Johnson who are responsible for this divisive politics, for whipping up them versus us, communities versus workers.

“And now they’ve got the audacity to blame Her Majesty’s Official Opposition for these strikes when it’s the government that’s in the cockpit.

“It’s punishing the wrong people – it’s the government who are attaching these strings, not Londoners, not our businesses, not our key workers.”

A spokesman for Downing Street said it was in the hands of the unions to call off the strikes.

“Obviously ministers remain close to the ongoing situation with regard to what are live discussions.

“But as we have made clear, we are not the employers in this case and we can’t intervene in the negotiations between rail companies and the unions.

“But what we want to see is unions get back round the table with their employer and call off the strikes next week.”

Travellers are facing chaos on the railways and London Underground due to widespread industrial action Credit: John Walton/PA

Andy Lord, TfL's Chief Operating Officer, said: "I want to apologise to customers who will be impacted by the RMT and Unite's strike action next week.

"The action on 21 June, taking place at the same time as the national rail strike, will have a severe impact on the London Underground network, resulting in very little to no service on all lines, which is why we're encouraging people to avoid travel unless completely necessary, as the majority of Tube stations will be closed and services not running.

"Alternatives to the Tube are likely to be much busier than usual and we expect the severe disruption caused by this strike to continue into the morning of Wednesday 22 June.

"I'm very sorry for the impact this will have on people's journeys."This strike is particularly frustrating as it comes so soon after industrial action earlier this month, no changes have been proposed to pensions and nobody has or will lose their job as a result of the proposals we have set out.

"We're urging the RMT and Unite to call off this strike and to work with us to find a resolution and avoid the huge disruption this action will cause to people's journeys and to our economic recovery."Earlier today, Mr Khan told the BBC he is encouraging the RMT's national union to speak with representatives from TfL so that planned strikes in the capital do not need to go ahead.

He told the World at One programme he was encouraging the RMT to meet with TfL before Tuesday to call the strikes off, warning the walk outs would be damaging to London's economy and "incredibly inconvenient".

He said the RMT's concerns in London related to the government's cash-injection for cash-strapped TfL in response to pandemic losses.

The mayor claimed the union was pointing its anger at the wrong people, and said the government needed to resolve union's funding concerns.

NHS patients have been urged to plan their travel ahead of the rail strikes Credit: PA

Will there be more rail strikes this summer?

The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) has also served notice to ballot hundreds of workers at Southeastern and Great Western Railway (GWR) for strike action, and action short of strike.

Voting starts in the next few weeks and industrial action could start from the end of July.

The TSSA said it is demanding a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies, no un-agreed changes to terms and conditions, and a pay increase which reflects the rising cost of living.

The union has previously announced strike ballots at several other train companies, while members of the train drivers’ union Aslef are set to strike at Greater Anglia, Hull Trains and the Croydon Tramlink in the coming weeks.

Tube workers will strike on June 21 to coincide with the first rail strike, threatening widespread travel disruption Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA

General secretary, Manuel Cortes, said: “Rail workers were hailed as heroes in the pandemic and now they deserve a real terms pay rise which keeps pace with inflation, rather than shouldering the burden of the Tories’ economic meltdown.

“Our demands are simple, pay which reflects the times we live in, a deal which delivers job security, and no race to the bottom on terms and conditions.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The facts are clear: The median pay of rail workers in is £44,000, which is around 70% above the national average.

“Railway workers have seen above average salary increases over the last decade.

“The industry is offering daily talks to resolve the strikes.

“We continue to encourage the unions to take them up on that offer and negotiate a fair deal for workers.”

What are rail workers paid?

The TTSA on Thursday published a “myth buster” as government messaging during the bitter rail dispute increasingly focused on workers' salaries.

The union said government officials were trying to paint rail workers as highly paid - but maintained that TSSA members being balloted include customer service workers on £18,800 a year and station staff on around £24,000.

The union said one of its members working on a railway station was considering leaving the job she has done for the past eight years to work in a local supermarket on similar pay and with safer working conditions.

A Rail Delivery Group spokesman has urged TSSA leadership to abandon the ballot and resume talks, and accused it of "jumping on the RMT's 'strike bandwagon'."

A spokesperson said a 2.5% "no-strings" offer is on the table with the potential for more if the union would compromise "and look at how productivity and efficiency gains could be made that save the railway money and could increase the size of the prize."

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