London Underground drivers have gone on strike, causing disruption to the capital during Black Friday sales with more action planned in the run up to Christmas.
The Central, Jubilee, Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria lines were all affected from the early hours of the morning.
More disruption is planned to take place on Saturday night with the restarting of the night tube, something that women’s safety campaigners have been keen to see recommence after services were restricted during the pandemic.
As part of the agreement to get the 24-hour services up and running, Transport for London (TfL) says drivers will have to work around four weekends of nights per year, with no jobs being lost.
One of the unions which represents drivers, the Rail Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) says that working four sets of Friday and Saturday nights per year had the potential to “rip up the work-life balance” of its members.
The prior agreement had dedicated Night Tube staff, who worked on a part time basis. There were previous strikes over them not getting the same benefits as full time staff.
As well as striking, picket lines were set up at some stations and depots, with photos on social media showing small numbers of people bearing flags and banners.
When the return of Night Tube services was announced, another Tube driver’s union, the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF) said it had agreed to TfL’s proposals to get trains moving.
ASLEF is balloting on potential industrial action, but this is in protest at changes to pensions and the way the national government and TfL agree funding.
During the strikes today, and on the weekend, TfL said it “will do all it can to provide as many transport options as possible, but Londoners are advised to check before they travel and leave more time for journeys.”
The Central and Victoria lines will be affected this weekend as they are the night services returning.
In a statement, TfL said: “The RMT has taken this action over new rosters, which have been agreed by the other recognised union and were introduced for Tube drivers in August.
“This strike action has been called despite the new rosters including assurances that there will be no job cuts, providing certainty and the option of permanent work for those on part-time contracts and only requiring four night shift weekends per year.”
It added: “Despite the many meetings, the RMT hasn’t presented any workable alternatives to the roster changes and refused a recent offer to jointly review the Night Tube after a trial period.”
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “The Tube strike action this morning is rock solid in all depots and the widespread impact on services is solely down to management failure to recognise and address the anger of their staff at the imposition of damaging and unacceptable working practices.
“This action was wholly avoidable if London Underground bosses hadn’t attempted to bulldoze through arrangements that abolished the Night Tube driver grade, lumping everyone into a central pool where they can be shunted about at will in a drive to cut costs.
Tube strikes planned Central, Jubilee, Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria lines.
Friday 26 and Saturday 27 November (plus further strikes planned).
Check your travel.
— Transport for London (@TfL) November 24, 2021
“Our members have spoken this morning and it’s time for London Underground to start listening.
“This is just the start of a programme of action and the mayor and his officials need to recognise our determination to defend progressive and family friendly working practices. We remain available for talks.”