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London Underground station staff vote to strike in row over safety

5Further London Underground strikes are looming in a dispute over jobs and safety following a programme of ticket office closures.

The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), which represents 540 station staff, said 67% of the votes cast in a ballot were in favour of a strike, and 90% backed industrial action short of a strike.

The union said workers had experienced “unprecedented” levels of verbal and physical abuse from passengers since tube ticket offices closed.

A change of regime at City Hall was expected to soothe industrial relations, with the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, having quickly invited transport union leaders for talks after succeeding Boris Johnson, who refused to meet them.

But staff dissatisfaction at what Transport for London chiefs refer to as the modernisation of the tube does not appear to have abated, despite Khan promising an independent review.

The union said it conducted a survey in September assessing the impact of the changes and discovered that 80% of staff reported a sharp increase in verbal and physical abuse from passengers. About 800 jobs were axed in TfL’s fit for the future programme, which came into effect from April.

The TSSA general secretary, Manuel Cortes, said the vote should concern “everyone in Britain who comes to London or has relatives in our capital city”, as it was a dispute about safety, not wages.

“Our customer service assistants are overwhelmingly trying to warn the public that the tube they use is not safe. We no longer have enough staff,” he said.

“Our members will as a last resort go on strike to safeguard passengers. They are prepared to forgo wages and risk media and management wrath to let the public know that our capital’s tube is no longer safe enough.

“This strike vote must not be dismissed as mindless militant action. Instead, it’s an act of desperation by mindful and public-spirited customer service assistants at their absolute best by putting passenger safety before anything else.”

The TSSA has not yet announced what action it will take. In a separate dispute with London Underground, the RMT union has called 24-hour strikes by drivers on the Piccadilly and Hammersmith and City lines next week, citing a breakdown in industrial relations.

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