Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 10th February 2022.
On 26th November you tweeted: "This unnecessary strike action by RMT is causing widespread disruption for millions of Londoners and will hit London's retail, culture and hospitality at the worst possible time." Given this, what concrete measures would you like to see to stop millions of Londoners suffering from strike action for six months? Would you support Binding Pendulum Arbitration, if the Government indicated they would give you this power?
I am disappointed by the continuing Night Tube strike action by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), which is impacting our city’s hard-hit retail, cultural and hospitality sectors as well as the night-time economy at a crucial time. The Night Tube has an important part to play in our capital’s recovery and helps to improve safety for everyone making their way home at night-time.
Reopening of the Night Tube followed months of discussions and meetings with the RMT and the other recognised trade union on the proposals to combine the day and night Tube train operator roles. The other trade union agreed to the proposals and, since then, TfL has repeatedly engaged with the RMT through the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) on this issue. I would urge the RMT to come back to the table and seek a resolution to this dispute.
I am pleased to say, though, that since Night Tube services resumed on Saturday 27 November , TfL has been operating a near-normal service on the Victoria line, and a reduced but regular service on the Central line through central London.
It has been made clear throughout the dispute that no Tube driver has lost their job because of these changes and nor will they. No driver has been forced to switch to part-time or full-time work if they do not want to. Any driver who wished to remain working solely on Night Tube services has been able to do so.
Binding arbitration hands over important decisions to an external third party with limited knowledge of the organisation involved and its workforce. It does not allow the arbitrator to come up with an alternative outcome, which presents a significant risk to effective business management. Binding arbitration also removes the motivation for businesses to work with their staff to find positive solutions. There are good reasons why binding pendulum arbitration is not in use in the UK either with any of the privatised train-operating companies, with any of the other transport authorities or in other fields. The rights and obligations relating to industrial action are enshrined in national legislation. They are a matter for national government. It would not make sense for fundamental employment rights to be different in different parts of the country, and it would create an uneven playing field that would not be right for everyone.
I am proud that since I became Mayor, the number of days lost due to strike action has reduced by 72% compared to the previous Mayor’s time in office. This is a result of constructive engagement with TfL staff and the trade unions, and this is the approach I intend to continue taking in London.
Thank you, Mr Mayor. You do not like the Conservative Group’s plan on binding pendulum arbitration. That is fair enough. You are the Mayor of London, sir. What is your plan to stop the next six months of Londoners being inconvenienced by more Tube strikes, please?
I was not aware until today that the Conservative Group wants us to have a system of arbitration that is used in places like Chile. We are not in favour of that system. By the way, nor is the national Government. Maybe you should speak to them in relation to binding pendulum arbitration.
I am quite clear that the way to resolve disputes is to get around the table and resolve them. I would encourage the RMT and TfL to get around to ACAS. TfL is ready to talk and try to resolve these differences. Ultimately, the way you resolve differences - not just in industrial relations but in other forms of life - is by talking. I would encourage the RMT and TfL to get around the table and talk and resolve these. These can be resolved. There is a way through these. It is in everyone’s interests for the disputes to be resolved.
Are you confident that we will not face six months of disruption for Londoners recovering from COVID and trying to be socially distanced? I have been on the Tube during these days, and it is back to the old sardines before COVID because there are fewer Tube trains running. Are you confident that by talking, you can resolve this in weeks rather than months, Mr Mayor?
Hold on a second. It is really important that we clarify misinformation. There are not fewer trains running in the daytime. As far as the Night Tube is concerned, I am impressed to see you using the Night Tube on Saturdays and in the early mornings of Sundays. The Victoria line is up and running to a near-normal service. The Central line is running a decent service. Both those lines came into existence only since I became Mayor. I am really proud of those Night Tube lines.
We have managed to reduce strike action since I became Mayor. It was by talking. It was by treating trade unions with respect, by engaging with them and by trying to address any issues they may have in a way that ensures that we can provide a decent service. I am hopeful that the resolution of this dispute can be reached, but it means talking. I would encourage the RMT to come back to ACAS and TfL to talk and see if we can resolve this amicably. It is in everyone’s interests to do so.
I am surprised by your answer about fewer trains because certainly there have been delays. I have personally experienced this, and many people have been telling me there are fewer trains. The trains are more crowded at certain times during these actions.
In terms of actually solving the problem, are you confident that we are not going to face six months more of strikes, please?
There are two issues you raised in your question. Firstly, it is for the reason we are seeing people returning to our Tube that I am trying to persuade the Government to keep the national requirement to wear a facemask. I would hope you will join me in trying to put pressure on the Government to do what is in the interests of public safety, rather than appeasing angry backbenchers. In relation to ‑‑
I am glad you agree on this. What I am asking you to do is to lobby your Government and try to make it change its mind because, love as we do, we do not have the power to do so.
Mr Mayor, you are the Mayor of London. Can we talk about your responsibilities just for once? It would be absolutely wonderful. You said you were going to be a zero-strike Mayor. You are not a zero-strike Mayor. I am asking you. Can you actually get the unions to stop these strikes and not have another six months of strikes? It is a simple question.
I will try again. In relation to TfL, I am astonished he does not see the link between national legislation and how TfL runs. Just like his colleague ‑‑
There is a link between national Government policy, national Government funding and the way TfL is run. I am sure he will welcome the fact that since I have been Mayor, there has been a 72% reduction in days lost through strike action. Unlike the previous Mayor ‑‑
Any students who are watching this are not going to be impressed by this sort of behaviour.
You are exactly right. Chair, I will leave it there. I am not going to get anywhere. I am wasting my colleagues’ time. They can ask other questions. He will not answer any questions. It is appalling. Thank you, Chair.