The Tube unions and London Underground (LU) management kicked off negotiations this morning (10 August) around the new Night Tube service after a breakdown in talks earlier in August resulted in a 24-hour-long strike, causing delays for millions of commuters and tourists across the capital. The parties resumed negotiations at mitigation service Acas at 10.00am BST, where Unite, TSSA, Aslef and the RMT officials met with LU representatives.
The industrial dispute is over pay and conditions. The unions have so far turned down an offer of a 2% salary increase, an extra £200 ($310) per shift for Night Tube drivers and a one-off £500 bonus for all Night Tube staff. But the unions said the talks fell apart over the number of hours drivers and employees will have to work over the weekend.
A spokesman for Aslef, for instance, told IBTimes UK that the current terms and conditions for Night Tube staff would have a negative effect on the employees' work/life balance and, with that in mind, the union wants more rest days for its members.
The RMT has also pushed LU management for pay increases for all underground staff. But Transport for London (TfL) has argued that its pay, perks and conditions offer is "very fair". If the negotiation deadlock continues, London could be hit with another strike and the Night Tube, which is set to roll out on 12 September, could be delayed. With those high stakes in mind, IBTimes UK takes a close look at the trade unions and negotiators involved in the talks.
A TfL spokesman told IBTimes UK that Steve Griffiths, the chief operating officer of LU, would be leading negotiations at Acas. Griffiths has reiterated management's stance that LU's pay and conditions offer is "extremely fair" and warned unions that the Night Tube will not be launched "at any cost". He added: "We are back at ACAS today to meet with the union leaderships and are committed to positive engagement to reach a deal."
Griffiths joined LU in May from Virgin Atlantic Airways, where he rose to become chief operating officer in 2009. The executive started his career off at Rolls-Royce in 1986, where he completed his engineering apprenticeship before rising through the ranks to become a senior service engineer in the manufacturer's product support division. Griffiths jumped ship to Virgin Atlantic in October 1995 to become a senior development engineer, focusing on propulsion.
Lorraine Ward, an assistant general secretary of the TSSA, is leading the union's negotiating team at Acas, according to a TSSA spokesman. Ward apparently became the first ever female rail union assistant general secretary when she assumed the senior role in 2012. The TSSA official has responsibility for Scotland, Ireland and the union's helpdesk organisers.
The TSSA, which mainly represents Tube employees such as ticket office workers, has challenged LU management over the company's Night Tube roster, proposals for ticket office closures and urged executives to consult with staff more over health and safety procedures, among other things.
Terry Wilkinson, a member of Aslef's executive committee, is leading the drivers' union negotiating team at Acas, according to a union spokesman. The organisation has more than 20,000 members across the UK and is therefore the smallest union involved in the industrial dispute, just behind the TSSA, which has more than 21,000 members across the UK, according to the union's last annual return filed to the certification officer.
Aslef, which has endorsed left-winger Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership contest, has said its main concern is the "complete lack of firm commitments on work life balance for train drivers" from LU management.
"Our members want guarantees on the number of weekend rest days they will have under both the interim and long term arrangements for Night Tube. Vague phrases like 'will seek to mitigate' and 'will explore' are simply unconvincing," the union said when talks broke down on 3 August.
Alongside Wilkinson, Finn Brennan has been part of the union's negotiating team. The district organiser has regularly kept Aslef members up to date with the talks with his frequent Facebook and Twitter postings. He has also appeared in various media outlets, including this publication, defending his union and explaining their position.
Unite is one of the biggest trade unions in the UK with more than 1.3 million members. The organisation is representing over 400 electrical and maintenance technicians, linesmen and signallers on the LU. Hugh Roberts, a regional officer who is representing Unite at Acas, said the union decided to take industrial action because management had "offered nothing meaningfully new".
"Its refusal to give firm long-term commitments on the number of weekend and unsocial shifts expected to be worked leaves our members unable to plan their future family time," the official said when talks broke down.
The late Bob Crow's spats with Boris Johnson were infamous and it seems his successor, Mick Cash, is just as rebellious. The union, which has more than 72,000 members, has attacked LU negotiators for having "no background on the Tube and no understanding of how process and logistics work". Cash claimed on 3 August that the Night Plan has been "botched from the off" and general secretary Cash later called for an urgent meeting with the Mayor of London on 6 August, which Johnson declined.
A spokesman for the RMT, which represents Tube drivers and workers, declined to give IBTimes UK names of the union's negotiating party, explaining that the representatives can change over the course of the talks. The spokesman added: "We are being represented by a team of national officials and the main issues are the imposition of the rosters over the new night running proposals." John Leach, a regional organiser for the RMT, has previously negotiated for the union at Acas talks relating to the LU.