London was brought to a near standstill on Thursday (July 9) as Tube drivers from four major transport unions chose to walk out over planned changes to working hours.
Workers from RMT, Unite and TSSA took 24-hour strike action from Wednesday evening at 6.30pm local time. ASLEF members followed in their footsteps from 9.30pm local time.
They claim changes are being forced through, including new rosters which would see Tube drivers work an unlimited number of weekend and night shifts for no extra pay.
Finn Brennan, the lead negotiator for the strikers, says the dispute is about the work-life balance of Underground drivers and not about pay.
“We’re not objecting to working night shifts, but we want them introduced in a way that is fair and protests the work/life balance of the drivers who deliver a first class public service to passengers every day,” he said in a recent interview.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson said the strike was political. He accused the unions of having no interest in cutting a deal, telling BBC radio union leaders should “cut the cackle, stop the misery for Londoners and allow the Tube workforce to get on with their job.”
The management of the world’s oldest underground passenger railway said it has hired extra night drivers and offered a fair pay deal. They claim most staff would be unaffected by the proposed changes and no one would have to work more hours than they do currently.
However, union representatives say they were not given time to consider the offer before it was withdrawn.
Transport for London, the government organisation responsible for most aspects of the capital’s transport system, put on around 200 extra buses during the strike,
But still, massive queues could be seen snaking from bus stops on Thursday. Taxi-hailing app, Hailo said demand for pre-booked cabs was more than double that seen on New Year’s Eve.
The crippling strike in the English capital is due to end on Friday morning (July 10).
Opinions among Londoners were mixed.
“Well, with a population of 8.6 million in London, I just think it’s very selfish of them to go on strike,” one woman told euronews. “They’re not really considering everybody they’re gonna be impacting by doing this.”
A fellow traveller disagreed. “It doesn’t affect me too much,” he said. “It just means the buses are overcrowded. But for once I actually agree with this strike, because this one isn’t over money. I mean, it’s about operation times. People are just being told they’ll be working at 2am, with no question about it. So, for once, I actually agree with the Tube strikes, but they should have automated it years ago, anyway.”
And many took to social media to express their opinions on the situation.