Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Sensible points from Ken Livingstone on Tube strike

Dear colleague

Today’s transport chaos following strike action by Underground workers raises the question: where is the mayor and why did he break his promise to protect tube ticket office opening hours, particularly in outer London?

Yesterday morning I urged Boris Johnson to meet the unions to try to get this strike called off and help Londoners get to work. After today’s disruption it is clear that Boris Johnson now needs to meet the two unions involved in the dispute in order to avoid any more days lost due to strike action.

You can email Boris Johnson on to urge him to start direct talks to ensure London does not face any more disruption; or send him a message via Twitter @MayorOfLondon.

Millions of Londoners have experienced disruption in getting to and from work in the last 24 hours, yet the mayor refuses to meet the two unions involved in this dispute, which arises in part from Boris Johnson breaking an election manifesto commitment to protect tube ticket office opening hours.

Boris Johnson’s promise to negotiate a no-strike agreement for the tube has been shown to be completely hollow. He made a meal of that idea in the election but has never met any trade union to discuss it.

I met residents and commuters at Rayners Lane tube yesterday morning, a station where Boris Johnson is cutting the opening hours by over 35 per cent, from 72.5 hours a week to 42 hours a week.

Local people told me they want a clear assurance that their stations will be adequately staffed and made as safe as possible.

Contrary to the way this issue has been reported in some parts of the media half of the jobs to be cut are not ticket office staff at all but staff who work on ticket barriers and other station staff.

Throughout today the Mayor’s representatives have claimed that the disruption on the Tube was motivated by making a political point at the expense of the coalition government. Yet Boris Johnson announced this programme of reduced ticket office opening hours and cuts to jobs himself before the government was elected. The mayor needs to concentrate on his day job and start talks to remove the possibility of any more disruption

It can be done. Between 2003 to 2008 I cut the number of shifts lost to industrial action by 98 per cent by engaging with the unions and putting the interests of Londoners first. Pippa Crerar, the Evening Standard’s City Hall editor, wrote today:

I can think of one recent mayor who managed to hold face-to-face talks on potential flash points (most recently, the collapse of Metronet) but still left all of the day-to-day negotiations to TfL. Boris is supposed to be our representative.

The Mayor can find the time to write a £250,000 a year Telegraph column but not to resolve disputes inconveniencing millions of Londoners.

Running London's transport system is one of the most important responsibilities of the Mayor. It is time for a Mayor who will act to keep London moving.

Yours sincerely

Ken Livingstone

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