Millions of commuters and tourists in London were greeted with good news last night after the Tube worker's unions suspended their strike action over pay and work conditions relating to the new Night Tube service at the last minute. The capital would have faced travel chaos, with 24-hour-long walkouts on 25 and 27 August on the cards, were it not for the RMT, TSSA and Unite climbing down.
But the city is not "out of the woods" yet, as Manuel Cortes the general secretary of the TSSA put it. The RMT has announced that they would strike on 8 and 10 September unless the dispute with London Underground (LU) is resolved. The union, which represents drivers and workers on the network, said "a few matters" needed further attention.
Mick Cash, the RMT general secretary, added: "I have advised LU that any movement towards the implementation of Night Tube, including running any test trains for Night Tube, will lead to us calling further industrial action without delay. Likewise, if our reasonable and just demands to protect the jobs and terms and conditions of station staff are not met, this will also lead to us calling further industrial action without delay."
Sources from LU and the unions have told IBTimes UK that progress had been made on non-pay issues, particularly work rosters. But there is still no agreement and talks at mitigation service Acas are expected to resume this week, hence Cortes' statement last night: "A number of issues need to be resolved before our dispute is finally settled. We will therefore announce future strike dates in due course although we remain hopeful that further talks will soon result in a negotiated settlement."
Unite's 'act of goodwill'
Elsewhere, Unite called the suspension "an act of goodwill" after the union sent warning messages near the end of negotiations. The organisation, which represents more than 400 electrical and maintenance technicians, linesmen and signallers on the LU, said on 22 August that Underground bosses "have a lot of work to do". The union also said it was "still unhappy" over LU's pay deal as late as 24 August.
Hugh Roberts, a Unite negotiator, had previously told IBTimes UK that he wanted a 2.5% salary hike for all Night Tube workers, instead of LU's averaged 2% settlement. But whatever happened at the talks on 24 August, Unite was first out of gate to declare that the strikes had been suspended.
Roberts said: "There are still some remaining sticking points, but we feel sufficient progress has been made to suspend industrial action as an act of goodwill. We will continue to approach talks with LU in a positive manner. We trust that LU management seize this opportunity to reach a deal that fully addresses our members' concerns and secures a successful future for night running on the Tube."
The breakthrough comes after two weeks of "constructive" talks between the unions and LU. The Night Tube roll-out date of 12 September has been under question since the latest batch of talks, but LU have maintained that the company is "operationally ready" to launch the new service.
Nick Brown, the managing director of LU, said: "It is good news for London that the strike has been suspended. We will now continue to work with the unions, so that we can resolve this dispute and get on with delivering for our customers, businesses and London."
LU now have two weeks to reach an agreement with the tube unions over pay and work conditions. On top of that, management are still in talks with tube drivers' union Aslef. A union source told IBTimes UK that they are "edging towards" a deal, but Aslef members could still walkout if talks breakdown.