London shoppers and commuters are facing Christmas chaos as the union seeks strike action. This is after nearly 99 percent of Tube driver voters voted to industrial action against pensions. 

Aslef’s members have overwhelmingly voted for striking if Transport for London’s (TfL’s) proposals to change their working conditions, pensions and other benefits are implemented without negotiation.

TfL, the Government and union claim they are trying to “plug” a funding hole caused by Covid pandemic as well as falling passenger numbers. 

Although no date for possible strike action has been established, it is believed that the union might be looking to the holiday period as a way to increase pressure on TfL. This would coincide with the capital’s recovery from the pandemic and the busiest time in the retail sector.  

Finn Brennan, Aslef’s organiser on the Tube, said: ‘98.8 per cent of our Tube train drivers on London Underground have voted in favour of strike action. 

Commuters and shoppers may face Christmas chaos if Aslef goes ahead with potential strike action

If Aslef continues with possible strike action, shoppers and commuters could be in chaos for Christmas

Finn Brennan, Aslef’s organiser on the Tube, said the vote was a 'staggering mandate' as he cited a financial crisis at TfL

Finn Brennan, Aslef’s organiser on the Tube, said the vote was a ‘staggering mandate’ as he cited a financial crisis at TfL

‘That’s an extraordinary figure – and a staggering mandate from our members – that sends a clear message to Transport for London.

‘Government cuts to its funding, together with a fall in passenger numbers since the Covid pandemic, have led to a financial crisis at TfL. 

Management and the government want to close that funding gap, cutting staff pensions and changing our working conditions. But this ballot result shows that our Tube train drivers aren’t prepared to let them get away with it.

‘Management should be in no doubt that if they try to force through changes to our agreements, working conditions, or pensions, there will be hard-hitting and sustained industrial action across London Underground.’

Only 1,400 Tube driver voters participated in the election, and only 16 voted against strike action.  

Union sources claimed that the new changes in working conditions and pensions would result in drivers working harder for less.

RMT previously described these proposals as “just a disguised pay cut”. 

Mr Brennan added: ‘Last year Boris Johnson stood on the steps of Downing Street and applauded essential workers. His government now wants to reduce our pensions, and strike at our working conditions. 

“London requires a properly funded public transportation system that rewards staff for their hard work. TfL needs proper funding and staff should be paid for their efforts. 

A busy Oxford Street in central London in the run-up to Christmas. Shoppers could be badly affected by strike action from Tube drivers

In the lead-up to Christmas, London’s Oxford Street is bustling. Tube commuters may strike and cause severe disruption to shops

The Government has paid TfL nearly £4 billion in bailouts to keep it afloat during the pandemic. 

Even though rail commuters are returning to London more slowly than elsewhere in the country, Tube passengers were at about 80 per cent pre-pandemic numbers.

The Rail Delivery Group reports that weekday numbers are down by around 60%.

According to the group, the so-called “London lag” in train commuters returning is making it difficult for restaurants and shops to reopen.   

Rail commuters brought an estimated £16.7bn a year to London pre-pandemic, but this figure is now understood to be around £6.8bn.

Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, said: ‘The funding gap on the Underground is not the fault of the men and women who, every day, help passengers move around the capital. 

“There’s no reason that the terms under which these employees are working should be changed. We pay pensions. Our pensions are not to be taken. 

TfL has been offered a number of short-term funding agreements by the Government. However, these came with terms that required TfL to review staff pensions as well as consideration of a move towards driverless trains.

TfL encouraged Aslef, in response to the vote to keep working towards resolving the dispute. 

TfL spokeswoman said that the mandate was for ongoing talks with trade unions.

“We ask Aslef for continued cooperation to solve these issues without resorting to industrial action.”