More talking, less tweeting – and free travel on Royal Wedding Day

January 12, 2011 10:00 pm

BorisBy Ken Livingstone / @ken4london

We are now engaged in one of the most bizarre episodes in industrial relations in London Underground’s history, which can only worsen the atmosphere between workforce and management, all because of the failure of Boris Johnson to develop a sensible strategy for employee relations for London.

To be absolutely clear Aslef, the union involved in a dispute about the overall issue of bank holiday working, has made it clear that there has been no discussion of a Royal Wedding Day strike, and no ballot for such a strike, and that talks on the underlying issue of bank holiday working are in any case due to resume.

Yet the Mayor has gone into overdrive, first exclaiming, Victor Meldrew-like, that he ‘Can’t believe this‘ and ‘surely not’, then demanding that Londoners bombard the union with their views.

So the executive mayor of the city, and the ultimate employer of London’s transport workers, is reduced to tweeting urging the public to send emails to the representatives of his own workforce but has never sat down to talkwith the three main tube unions at all, ever.

He is only going to further worsen trust and confidence in employee relations by his approach.

We need more talking to the workforce and less tweeting.

The Mayor may have calculated that there are votes in appearing to take the union on over a strike that is not in any case happening. That is unsurprising given that in general under Boris Johnson strikes are up, as George Eaton of the New Statesman has shown. Moreover, he has reneged on his promise to negotiate a no-strike deal, never lifting a finger to implement a policy he made much of during the election.

And his colleague in Downing Street, David Cameron, may have concluded that a joining a fake row over a strike not even discussed or balloted by the union involved is a favourable diversion from his weakness towards the bankers. The whole thing is like something out of Wag the Dog.

The Tory approach to employee relations in London has led not only to rising strikes on the Underground, in part driven by Boris Johnson’s broken promises over ticket office opening hours, but also poisonous relations with London’s firefighters. The Tory Mayor of London is now at the forefront of demands to attack public sector trade unions, whilst he defends bankers and presses for lower taxes on the rich.

The Mayor must instead get a grip. There are three things he must do. One, he must end his self-defeating failure to ever meet the tube unions. That policy is demonstrably foolish. Two, he must end posturing in favour of serious employee relations. More talking, less tweeting. And three, he must sack his back-to-the-eighties macho management fire chief Brian Coleman, who is single-handedly poisoning relations with the workforce and consistently makes a resolution of employee issues less likely, rather than more likely.

If you agree that the Mayor needs to start to talking to his staff from now on, you can email him here: mayor@london.gov.uk

Finally, one more thing. Millions of people are going to need to move around London on the day of the Royal Wedding. Many of those will not have Oyster cards or be regular users of the transport network. Some others may be tempted to move around the city by car, which in many cases would be the least efficient way to commute.

Something practical, rather than just posturing, needs to be done to make the day go smoothly. So over those modes of transport the Mayor controls there should be free travel on Royal Wedding day to make the city move as efficiently as possible. I hope the Mayor takes up my proposal on this.

If you agree that the Mayor needs to end his failure to engage with his own staff, and if you want free travel on Royal Wedding Day, email Boris Johnson at mayor@london.gov.uk

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