RMT and ASLEF members on London Underground have voted by a big majority in referenda to accept a four-year pay deal and revised proposals for how Night Tube is to run. TSSA members are likely to follow. While Unite has rejected the offer, it has few members on the Underground and is expected to accept the position once all the other unions do.
The company’s offer is much better than its original, hamfisted attempt to impose Night Tube under arrangements that would have seriously damaged staff’s work-life balance. These improvements were achieved by effective strike action last year by all four unions together. However, the four-year pay offer is barely above official inflation figures and, in the context of National Insurance hikes, will leave Tube workers struggling to keep up with rising London living costs.
It also prevents the union pursuing further battles over pay for the four-year term of the deal, thus clearing management’s desks to devise renewed attacks on jobs and conditions. With the unions’ leaderships recommending a Yes vote in the referenda, the acceptance of the deal was expected. But the No vote of around 15% was around double the level of previous comparable votes, suggesting that a significant minority of members recognised the problems with the deal and voted to reject it. Less than half of RMT’s members voted in its referendum: if supporters of the Trade Union Bill were consistent, they would argue that the result is invalid and that the company must now make an improved offer!
Meanwhile, RMT members employed by Tube Lines — the company owned by Transport for London which maintains one third of London Underground’s infrastructure — are voting in a ballot for industrial action over pay and Night Tube. It is unfortunate that this ballot is only happening as the union concludes its dispute on the same issue with the London Underground staff who work alongside Tube Lines staff. Had the union run the two disputes in parallel last year, it might have won a better outcome.