The leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union has accused London Mayor Boris Johnson of intervening to “wreck” talks with London Underground officials aimed at averting a three day tube strike next week, which is now set to go ahead after discussions broke down on Friday.
RMT acting general secretary Mick Cash claimed that although talks with London Underground had come close to preventing the 72 hour strike - beginning Monday at 9pm - officials "changed track and lobbed in a hand grenade".
Mr Cash branded the alleged switch a "cynical and politically motivated move" instigated by Mr Johnson as part of his "objective of leading the Tory Party".
He said: “RMT negotiators worked flat out today at Acas to try and reach an agreement which could allow for a suspension of the action and late this afternoon we had a workable framework which could have triggered that suspension.
“However, right at the death LU changed tack and lobbed in a hand grenade, demanding not a suspension of the action but that the entire dispute be called off, pre-empting the outcome of the next stage of the process and imposing a condition that they knew we could never agree to.
In pictures: Tube strike April 2014
In pictures: Tube strike April 2014
1/4 Tube Strike
Commuters travel on the Northern Line of the London Underground which is running a limited service due to industrial action on April 29, 2014 in London, England.
2/4 Tube Strike
Commuters at Stratford Underground, Overground and DLR Station in east London, on the first day of a 48 hour strike by tube workers on the London Underground over ticket office closures.
3/4 Tube Strike
Commuters prepare to travel on the District Line of the London Underground during strike action on 30 April, 2014
4/4 Tube Strike
Commuters wait at Victoria tube station for limited service trains in London, Britain, 29 April 2014.
“I am angry and bitterly disappointed that a deal which could have allowed for a suspension of Tube strike action has been wrecked at the last minute and we suspect the intervention of the Mayor who seems hell bent on using this dispute to further his own political objective of leading the Tory Party.
“It is a cynical and politically motivated move that means that avoidable action now goes ahead as our members continue the fight for jobs, services and safety.”
The RMT is taking action over plans to close ticket offices across the tube map, a move that they say will cost 960 jobs. London Underground says that there will be no compulsory job losses as a result of the changes.
Following the breakdown of the latest round of talks, Phil Hufton, London Underground's chief operating officer, said: “We set out our proposals to modernise the Tube and improve customer service nearly six months ago. We have had well over 40 meetings, and came to Acas today to listen, make progress and bring an end to this dispute. The RMT leadership clearly did not.
“They have still offered no credible alternative proposals and are still demanding the wholesale cessation of all modernisation as the price for calling off their pointless strike next week. Despite our offer to continue talking, their interest seems to be in preserving the past and forcing London's fare and tax payers to foot the bill.
“No responsible management can stand by and allow that to happen - like all organisations we simply have to move with the times. That means more reliable services, better stations and much higher levels of face-to-face customer service with staff readily on hand to assist customers at ticket machines, ticket gates and on platforms.
“I don't know any other organisation that offers the guarantees to staff that we have - no compulsory redundancies, anyone who wants to stay with us can have a job and no one will lose pay.”
Mt Johnson added: “Once again London is being held to ransom by a minority of just one union, the RMT, who, unlike the other three unions, and on a ballot taken last November with just 30% support, is digging in its heels and refusing to play its part in shaping the future of the Tube.
“Less than 3% of journeys involve a visit to Victorian era ticket offices, which cost Londoners £50 million a year to run. It makes absolutely no sense to keep them open.
“Our plans will see more staff available in the public areas of stations - at ticket machines, gate lines and platforms - meaning that face to face customer service and the ability to help people will be enhanced not reduced.”Reuse content