Fresh Tube and ambulance strikes to hit London

Walkouts have been announced for next month in a further wave of industrial action

Strike action was announced on the Tube and by ambulance workers on Wednesday in a fresh wave of industrial action.

London Underground drivers are to strike on March 15 – Budget Day – in a dispute over pensions and working arrangements, their union Aslef announced.

On the same day more than 100,000 civil servants are set to walk out in a dispute over pay and conditions.

While ambulance and other health workers from the Unison union will strike on 8 March in an escalation of their long-running dispute over pay.

The strike will include members of the London Ambulance Service.

Tube drivers will strike for 24 hours after 99 per cent voted in favour of strike action. They will be joined by test train and engineering train drivers and those in management positions.

The strike action marks an escalation in the row over pensions and Transport for London’s bid to make efficiency savings by changing working practices and not replacing departing staff.

Aslef spokesperson Finn Brennan said: “We understand that TfL faces financial challenges, post-pandemic, but our members are simply not prepared to pay the price for the government’s failure to properly fund London’s public transport system.

“Cuts to safety training have already been forced through and management is open that they plan to remove all current working agreements under the guise of modernisation and flexibility and to replace the agreed attendance and discipline policies.”

Mr Brennan claimed that proposals to slash pension benefits are due to be announced in the next week, as he threatened further walkouts.

“We are always prepared to discuss and negotiate on changes, but our members want an unequivocal commitment from TfL that management will not continue to force through detrimental changes without agreement,” he said.

“Unless they are prepared to work with us, and accept that changes have to come by agreement, and bring real benefits to staff, rather than just cuts and cost savings, this will be only the first day of action in a protracted dispute.”

Nick Dent, Director of Customer Operations at TfL, said: “We have not proposed changes to anyone’s pensions, and instead have been working with our trade unions to see how we can make London Underground a fairer and more sustainable place.

“We urge Aslef to call off this damaging strike and continue working with us.”

TfL said there are currently no changes or proposals for change on pensions, and no train operator will lose their jobs as part of TfL’s proposals.

TfL is in consultation with trade unions to gather feedback on formalising changes to competence checks that were introduced during the pandemic.

On November 10 the Underground was brought to a standstill by the RMT union as its 10,000 members striked over pensions and job cuts.

It was the sixth Tube strike in 2022, resulting in an estimated £12 million blow to the economy and leaving thousands crowding onto buses or stuck in traffic.

On March 15 civil servants will also strike in an effort to exert “significant pressure” on the government, the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union announced.

The walkout announced by ambulance staff comes after nursing strikes scheduled to take place next Wednesday were paused after the Government announced that it would hold “intensive talks” with the Royal College of Nursing.

Unison’s announcement suggests that strikes affecting other health workers - including paramedics, call handlers and physiotherapists - will proceed regardless of the breakthrough with the nursing union.

Health workers at NHS Blood and Transplant, Great Ormond Street Hospital, the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, Liverpool Women’s Hospital and the Bridgewater Community Trust will now be among those now walking out for the first time, Unison said.

It will also include ambulance staff at four services in England – South Central, East of England, West Midlands and East Midlands - following a re-ballot last week. This is in addition to staff in London, orkshire, the North East, North West and South West who have already staged four days of industrial action.

Unison’s general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Unfortunately for patients, staff and anyone that cares about the NHS, the strikes go on.

“There can be no pick-and-mix solution. NHS workers in five unions are involved in strike action over pay, staffing and patient care.

“Choosing to speak to one union and not others won’t stop the strikes and could make a bad situation much worse.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "The Health and Social Care Secretary has met with the BMA to discuss pay, conditions and workload and, as the union acknowledges, he is looking to arrange another meeting with them as soon as possible." The National Education Union (NEU) has said it could pause strike action planned for next week if "real progress" can be made in negotiations.

It comes after Education Secretary Gillian Keegan wrote to teaching unions inviting them to "formal talks on pay, conditions and reform" on the condition that next week's strike action in England and Wales is cancelled.

On Wednesday, the NEU said it is "prepared to recommend a pause to strikes next week" to its national executive committee on Saturday in a "sign of goodwill", but only if "substantive progress" can be made in talks.

But Downing Street suggested there would be "no talks" with teaching unions about pay if the NEU continues to refuse to call off the strikes.