As London prepares for a 24 hour Tube strike, Boris Johnson accuses unions of “flexing their muscles” but refuses to answer if he is also trying to appear tough as a part of a Tory leadership race.
Members of four unions are walking out at 6:30pm in a dispute over pay and conditions for a new night Tube service to be offered on London Underground from September.
Mr Johnson told Channel 4 News that the deal on the table with the unions is “very good” and that London Underground train drivers are “by most standards pretty well paid.”
Mr Johnson said unions such as the RMT should put the offer before its members, and accused it of “flexing their muscles”.
Millions of week day commuters, who fork out a fortune in fares, risk seeing their safety compromised and their services reduced to chaos. Mick Cash, RMT
“I think this is a lot about trying to flex their muscles and show they can cause a strike whenever TfL wants to make a big reform of the Tube,” he said.
However, Mr Johnson did not answer when asked if he was also playing politics and wanting to “look tough” for the Conservatives as a part of future Tory leadership aspirations.
On Tuesday Conservative Home’s monthly Tory party leadership poll showed that George Osborne had shot ahead of Boris Johnson as the person party members should be the next leader.
RMT announced on Wednesday that it would also be balloting its members who work for Tube Lines, a company that runs the Piccadilly, Northern and Jubilee lines.
General Secretary Mick Cash said: “Tube Lines staff have been offered a deal over the next two years on pay and 24-hour running which mirrors that on offer to the rest of the LU workforce.
“It is as unacceptable on Tube Lines as it is across the rest of the combine and as a result these essential maintenance staff will now be balloted for both strike action and action short of a strike.”
This is something that is of massive benefits to working people. Boris Johnson
On Tuesday the RMT called for the immediate and indefinite suspension of Mr Johnson’s “night tube vanity project”.
Mr Cash said: “Millions of week day commuters, who fork out a fortune in fares, risk seeing their safety compromised and their services reduced to chaos so that a few thousand revellers can be shipped home in the early hours of Saturday and Sunday morning and experienced tube managers know that.
“We urgently need to get talks convened with tube professionals who understand the reasons behind a crisis which should never have been allowed to get this far.”
But Mr Johnson said the night Tube is the “right way forward for London.”
“The idea of the night Tube is something that is not just for kind of party animals in London.
“This is something that is of massive benefits to working people. 50 per cent of the people who use our night buses at the moment are going to and from work.”