Users of London’s “Boris Bikes” faced disruption this morning after workers on the cycle-hire scheme began a 48-hour strike following a dispute with employers Serco Group over alleged poor working conditions.
Employees responsible for maintaining the bikes and moving them around the capital were instructed not to book any shifts between 9pm tonight and 8.59pm on Tuesday after members of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) voted unanimously in favour of industrial action.
Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT, told The Independent that regular users of the scheme would notice fewer bikes on the streets but that he could not predict exactly how much disruption would be caused.
He said: “Unless management take on an extra 150 people tonight, there will be fewer bikes on the streets tomorrow.”
Mr Crow stressed that the battle was with Serco not with bike users and said that he hoped the company would take the strike seriously and seek to negotiate a solution.
Serco provides staff for Transport for London (TfL), which runs the scheme sponsored by Barclays. Workers are angry at Serco’s offer of a below-inflation pay rise this year, along with changes to shift patterns, alleged harassment of members and the company’s refusal to reach a formal agreement on travelling time or travel allowances.
According to the RMT, the scheme, which was launched under previous Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, but which is more closely associated with his successor Boris Johnson, is at risk of “ collapsing into chaos” due to under-investment in staff, bikes and docking stations.
In a statement released on the union’s website last week, Mr Crow said the cycling initiative had become more than just a “ vanity project” for the Mayor of London.
“It is now a valuable part of our transport system and the staff should be treated as such,” he said. “It’s about time [Boris Johnson] intervened to ensure the staff get a fair deal,” he added.
Serco spokesman Andrew Hill said the company was “deeply disappointed” with the decision to strike, claiming an agreement over pay and working pattern changes had already been reached with their recognised trade union, Community.
But Mr Crow dismissed this claim, saying Community had “no members”. TfL spokesman Nick Aldworth said: “We contract Serco to manage the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme and, as such, the employment conditions of their staff is an issue for them. We will monitor the situation and understand that Serco have contingencies in place to avoid any disruption.”
The Mayor of London’s office declined to comment on the strike.
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