I have written before about the failure of the Mayor of London to face up to the RMT Union. Now we are seeing the repercussions of that initial weakness with news that the RMT have voted to strike over pay, working conditions and some 3,000 jobs feared to be at risk.
Workers will begin a 48-hour strike at 1859 BST on 9 June. The response from TfL has been swift and non-conciliatory:
The RMT leadership has failed to engage in any meaningful talks on pay, instead submitting a wildly unrealistic claim – demanding a 5% pay rise for fewer hours in the middle of a recession. On jobs, the RMT leadership knows full well we are seeking to end the duplication of back office jobs and that no front line staff will be affected. Our offer guarantees real wage increases for the next five years. Very few Londoners have that level of certainty for the future.
The battle lines are drawn. If the RMT does not back down, nor should the Mayor. One thing is for sure: Londoners would be near-unanimous in their support for confrontation.
In truth, the fight will not be won until the London Underground is privatized. This is certainly easier said than done; it is the case for most industries that once they have been touched by the inefficiencies of government, putting them back on the straight and narrow is a long and often painful road. Nevertheless it is the only way out of the mess we are in and it should not stop Boris doing the right thing. Let it not forgotten that before his makeover, he was a disciple of Thatcherism. If he could just follow his intellectual instincts as opposed to his political ones, there is no reason why he could not be the person to revolutionize London’s ailing underground system.