A second 48-hour tube strike was due to go ahead at 2100 hours today. It will not now happen: not today, at least. This was the first howler made by the Evening Standard, aka London Daily Bozza, as it declared “London Tube strike called off: Unions halt second walkout after striking last-minute deal”. But the strike has not been called off. The ticket office closure programme has – for now.
So we are back to square one, a situation that need not have involved last week’s strike, which not only caused serious disruption to many commuters’ journeys, but also gridlocked London’s road network and demonstrated, if demonstration were needed, that the capital cannot function properly without the Underground. And then there is the question of where Bozza was in all this.
London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has been good at talking the talk: recently he used his “chicken feed” generating Maily Telegraph column to tell how he might sit around the table with RMT head man Bob “Scare” Crow and talk things over, assisted by suitable quantities of mutually acceptable alcoholic beverages. But talk was all it was.
When push came to shove last week, and Crow took Bozza up on his offer, the Mayor suddenly went absent. Bob had to phone in to his LBC show in order to talk to him. And he was absent again today, suddenly discovering that it would be easier to sound off about the floods than to explain why his side had bottled a confrontation with the unions that need not have happened.
Because bottling it is exactly what TfL management has done. The strike threat remains in place – backed up by the requisite votes by RMT and TSSA members – and Peter Hendy and his pals have now agreed to consider the ticket office closure proposals on a case by case basis. What has not been stated, although it will form part of any deal, is what happens to all those station supervisor redundancies.
Basically, the whole package of spending cuts – which is the ultimate objective, given the upcoming grant cuts – is now in pieces. It doesn’t help that TfL signed up with Wrightbus for 600 of Bozza’s vanity buses that may cost as much as an extra half a billion notes over their lifetime, or that both cycle hire and the vanity cable car are losing money hand over fist.
That is what should be borne in mind when pundits push the view that this has been some kind of “score draw”. It hasn’t. Bozza has been shown, once again, to be a blustering windbag who attempts to be all things to all voters, only to come up short every time. Hendy needs to stop playing the strongman and get negotiating. Meanwhile, the push of TfL’s finances is rapidly approaching shove.
The management should stop screwing around with the public. And do their job.