The central section of London's flagship Elizabeth Line will close on Thursday in the first strike since it opened eight months ago. The shutdown will mean no trains in the tunnels between Paddington and Abbey Wood and a reduced service on the outer sections. Members of the TSSA and Prospect unions have rejected a 4% pay offer for 2022 and a further 4.4% in 2023. The striking staff work as maintenance engineers and as signallers in the Romford, east London control room.
Howard Smith, TfL’s Director of the Elizabeth line, said: "Strikes are bad news for everyone, and we urge the TSSA and Prospect to continue to work with us to avoid industrial action.
"These strikes will have a detrimental effect during a time where we are encouraging customers back on to trains into central London, in which the Elizabeth line has played a leading role."
Commuters were also warned today they could face a new wave of Tube strikes in March if drivers vote to take industrial action over possible pension changes. Drivers' union ASLEF announced plans to ballot members later this month, with the result due on February 15th. The prospect of changes to the pension scheme sparked a series of strikes last year by Tube workers in the RMT union.
Ministers instructed Transport for London to trim £100m from its annual pensions bill as part of a long-term government funding package. TfL has been set a deadline of January 31st to submit its preferred option for pension reform. An internal report in October concluded any changes 'will lead to an unacceptable level of detriment to members' benefits'. 'Our members have been very clear that they will not stand passively by while the income they expect in retirement is drastically slashed,' said Finn Brennan, ASLEF District Organiser Aslef also claims Underground bosses want to cut driver numbers and make other changes to working practices as part of a modernisation programme.
A TfL spokesperson said: “We are aware that ASLEF intends to ballot London Underground staff. We continue to work with all our unions following the financial conditions placed on TfL by the Government following the pandemic.”
The threat of further industrial action on the Tube came as rail minister Huw Merriman met union leaders to try to resolve the rail workers' pay dispute.
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