Boris must act on “lethal cocktail of job and safety cuts”

Ken Livingstone, London’s last mayor, exclusively told Left Foot Forward: “Millions of Londoners are experiencing chaos in getting to and from work today, 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.”

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) and Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) began the first in a series of 24-hour strikes last night. Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, wrote in the Evening Standard that he “will not accept them and am therefore fighting to preserve and improve our transport infrastructure”.

The union says the strikes are aimed at fighting against 800 job losses, which they claim will compromise safety. Plans unveiled by Transport for London (TfL) could see ticket offices around London closed by almost 7,500 hours each week.

As Simon Fletcher has pointed out on Labour List, Boris has broken his manifesto promise to keep ticket offices open, which he made in the document “Getting Londoners Moving”, where on page 2 he pledges to:

“Make Transport More Convenient:

“…By halting the proposed Tube ticket office closures, and ensuring there is always a manned ticket office at every station.”

It is not just the convenience of passengers that union members say they are looking to protect – it is claimed that removing staff from ticket halls compromises personal safety, especially for women. A number of incidents, including two fires, have been spotted and dealt with by Customer Service Assistants (the position Boris proposes to cut) before they became emergencies.

Ken Livingstone, London’s last mayor, exclusively told Left Foot Forward:

“Millions of Londoners are experiencing chaos in getting to and from work today, 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.

“I met residents and commuters at Rayners Lane tube yesterday, and they told me they want a clear assurance that their stations will be adequately staffed and made as safe as possible. 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.

“Running London’s transport system is one of the most important responsibilities of the Mayor, it is time for Boris Johnson to act to keep London moving.”

As the Underground network began to close down yesterday, RMT general secretary Bob Crow said:

“There do not appear to be any corners that London Undergound are not prepared to cut in order to bulldoze through their lethal cocktail of job and safety cuts.”

Adding:

“Instead of playing fast and loose with safety it is about time that the Mayor and his officials took the issues as the heart of this dispute seriously, removed the threat of  these savage cuts from above our members heads and cleared the way for meaningful talks aimed at protecting safety and safe staffing levels.”

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