Seven myths about the Tube strike

Bethan McKernan@mck_beth
Wednesday 05 August 2015 15:00

The second Tube strike in less than a month is set to go ahead from 6.30pm on Wednesday.

More than 20,000 workers are set to walk out and every station will be closed until Friday morning since more talks between the four main workers' unions and London Underground (LU) ended in another stalemate.

The debate over the strike's appropriateness is heated on both sides, so has tackled a few myths for you to contemplate while fighting your way onto a bus home or trudging along to work in the fresh air:

1. Tube drivers have it better than doctors

A lot of people shared this table during the last Tube strike which points out that salary, hours and working conditions are better for train drivers than doctors:

While this information from the National Careers Service is strictly true, it doesn't take into account that most Tube drivers start out as station staff (salary of £20,000) - or that comparisions between different sectors are only helpful up to a point. During the last strike, Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union spokesperson Geoff Martin told

We don't think anyone should be subject to inhumane working conditions, doctors, nurses, any trade unionists, any workers. This union believes in levelling up rather than levelling down... This comparison dumbs the discussion down.

2. The city will grind to a halt

Let's face it: even if there's no Tube, London is still served by extensive 24-hour bus routes, river ferries and a public bike system. It's unlikely that you'll get completely stranded - and you might even get to get to cut your commute time down to zero by working from home.

3. Tube staff are just greedy and want more money

The main sticking points for Tube staff are nothing to do with pay - workers are worried about their quality of life because of proposed new weekend and night shift arrangements ahead of the beginning of the 24-hour Tube service which is supposed to start in September.

4. The unions walked away from the negotiations, so it's their fault

The unions felt compelled to walk away from talks ahead of July's strike because LU only gave them four hours to consider a new proposal. This time around, they are still worried about adequate compensation for night work, which has been linked to health problems and even early death.

5. London Underground is pushing through these changes without consulting staff, so that's where the blame lies

Transport for London managing director Nick Brown

LU have come back with a month's worth of compromises since talks failed in July.

The company said that the unions are consistently refusing to consider what it called a "extremely fair revised" deal which includes a two per cent salary increase this year, an extra £200 per night shift for a limited time, and reassurances that anyone who doesn't want to work nights won't have to.

6. This is all Boris Johnson's idea, so it's his fault

The night Tube is one of the mayor's pet projects - he promised it back in 2013 (on the same day he announced 750 Transport for London jobs were being cut) as a measure that would boost "our vibrant night-time economy."

While a global city like London with the technology to run a 24-hour Tube service should probably do so, it's the rush to get it up and running ahead of the Rugby World Cup, which London is hosting next month, which is largely to blame for the disputes between LU and the unions.

To give the mayor his due, he has since said that he is "not fussed" about the night service starting on 12 September as planned as long as it still starts in the next few months.

7. Striking won't achieve anything anyway

Obviously each case is different, but any time someone drags this particular strawman out remind them of October 24 1975, the day when 90 per cent of Iceland's women refused to work, cook, clean or look after children as a protest against the pay gap. Forty years later, Iceland is still lightyears ahead of other countries in the equality stakes.

More: Everyone is sharing this table about the Tube strike, but here's why they're wrong