London Underground (LU) drivers and Boris Johnson have found themselves in agreement after the current mayor of London said plans for a Night Tube service were not "absolutely critical". The top Tory made the admission after talks around the new service between the unions and management hit the rails on 14 October.
The deterioration in negotiations over pay and work conditions meant the delayed launch date for the Night Tube of Autumn 2015 became very unlikely and the unions claimed a 2016 roll-out was on the cards. LU had the claimed the service, which is expected to run across major lines, would support 2,000 permanent jobs and boost the capital's economy.
But Johnson took to the airwaves on 4 November to play down the set back by telling LBC Radio that Londoners had done without the service for 150 years. The mayor of London added: "I want you to know that this is something I think we should have, but it is not something that I regard as absolutely critical."
The comments led to a rare agreement between Johnson and drivers' union Aslef. Finn Brennan, a negotiator for the union, told IBTimes UK: "For once I agree with him. LU should now stop stalling on pay talks and make a new offer. This would allow for the issues of pay and Night Tube to be separated."
LU were recently forced to defend a "listening exercise" over the company's pay deal for the Night Tube, which includes an average 2% salary increase for 2015 and drivers being offered an extra £200 ($307) per Night Tube shift. The company canvassed staff about the offer after Aslef, the RMT, the TSSA and Unite walked out of talks.
"We are simply letting our staff know about the extremely fair deal on offer and listening to their views," a spokeswoman for LU told IBTimes UK. "Our offer has been reworked considerably from when the trade unions balloted their members for strike action in June, which is why we now feel we must seek the views of our staff."
The parties are expected back around the negotiating table on 10 November when they meet mitigation service Acas. A spokesperson for the service said: "Acas talks with the parties involved in the London Underground dispute will reconvene on 10 November at 9.30am GMT."