COMMUTERS will be hit with more disruption this week as Tube workers walk out this evening.
An ongoing dispute between union bosses and the London Underground (LU) over ticket office closures will see Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union members go on strike from 9pm tonight, returning to their posts at around the same time on Wednesday.
It is expected service disruption could start before the official walk-out and carry on into Thursday morning.
RMT and LU chiefs are continuing talks over modernisation plans which could see 960 jobs axed.
Union members last walked out for 48 hours in February, causing widespread disruption across the Tube network.
In a statement released last week, RMT claimed LU had wrecked talks and confirmed further cuts. A spokesperson said: “It has been made crystal clear to the union that this is just a first tranche of cuts with even harder attacks being lined up for the near future.”
RMT Acting General Secretary Mick Cash said: “The talks aimed at resolving the dispute on London Underground over the savage cuts to jobs, services and safety have been cynically wrecked by a tube management who not only refused to budge an inch but who have chosen to up the ante by injecting further poisonous measures into a package that was already toxic to the core.”
He continued: “The assurances that were given at the time RMT suspended the original action for a proper evaluation of the cuts plans have been ripped up and thrown back in our faces.
“RMT has no option but to put on further strike action in the expectation that the management will now halt these dangerous cuts plans and engage in meaningful and serious talks on the future of a tube network running at full tilt.”
Further strike action has been planned for Monday, 5 May to Thursday, 8 May. All union members have been told not to work rest days or overtime from tomorrow until further notice.
A huge demonstration is also being planned in London to take place on 1 May in honour of the late RMT boss Rob Crow and workers’ champion Tony Benn.
However, LU has accused the union of failing to put forward “a single credible idea” to respond to the need for modernisation.
A spokesperson said: “Instead, they have demanded that all proposals for change should be stopped and that LU customers should continue to pay £50 million a year for services that changing customer needs mean can be delivered better and more efficiently.”
LU has called on the union to halt the strike in light of changes they have made in recent weeks. These include offering voluntary redundancy for all 650 staff who have already applied for it.
Mike Brown, Managing Director of London Underground, said: “The RMT leadership are making this up on the hoof. Suddenly, they want to unilaterally tear up the long-established and collectively agreed option of voluntary redundancy, throwing into question the plans of over 650 staff who have chosen to leave us.
“The RMT leadership has also failed to take on board the significant changes we have made to our original proposals. They should clearly now call off the strike and save London’s commuters and businesses from disruption.
“We will not be diverted from doing the right thing. No responsible management can stand by and force customers to pay £50 million a year for services which can be delivered far better and while keeping fares down.”
Transport for London plans to run as many services as possible throughout the strike with extra bus and river services available to commuters. Where possible, trains will run from around 7am until 11pm, but the last services from central London may depart at around 9.30pm.
It is expected that the Hammersmith and City line will have trains every 10 minutes between Hammersmith and Aldgate, but services will not extend any further.
On the District line, TfL hope to run trains every 12 minutes between Wimbledon and Barking in both directions, with services extending to Upminster if possible.
Train operator c2c will provide extra capacity trains to deal with demand at peak times. It is understood c2c passengers will not be able to embark or disembark at West Ham station until TfL are able to open the station and passengers are advised to make other arrangements.
Commuters are encouraged to check www.tfl.gov.uk for updates.