Remember back in the dark ages of December 2005 when TWU workers struck for three days? Remember when New Yorkers had to walk for miles and miles to get to work and many of them simply telecommuted for a few days? Remember how the middle of winter sure seemed like a terrible time for a transit strike?
Well, think back fondly on those three days and be thankful you’re not in London. At 6 p.m. British Standard Time this evening, 2300 maintenance workers employed by Metronet, the bankrupt public-private partnership tasked with running nine of the 12 London Underground lines, went on strike. With no workers around to maintain the system, Transport for London shut down those nine lines, and they will remain inactive until Friday morning. The New York Times has more:
London’s subway network virtually shut down at the height of the rush hour on Monday evening when 2,300 maintenance workers walked off the job in what they said would be a three-day strike over pensions and security.
Transportation officials then closed nine subway lines, the bulk of the system. They said it was too dangerous to keep the network going without the workers, who are responsible for maintaining and repairing tracks, signals, trains and the like. Just three lines — the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines, which are maintained by workers who belong to another union — were operating Monday night.
While New Yorkers may simply say that Londoners are going through what we went through two years ago, matters are first worse in London. First, these transit workers are threatening to strike for another 72 hours starting next Monday if their demands are not met and fears are not assuaged by Friday morning. Additionally, in a move sure to embolden the anti-congestion fee lobby in New York, London mayor Ken Livingston has rankled many would-be drivers when he announced that London’s eight-pound congestion charge would stand during the strike.
The problems in London, as The New York Times explains and The Times of London outlines in this article, stems from problems surrounding Metronet. When the Tubes fell under the auspices of this public-private partnership, Livingston foresaw financial problems such as this one.
In July, Metronet entered administration, the British equivalent of the American concept of receivership. The workers are worried that pensions and job security will not be guaranteed if and when Transport for London completes its bid to take over the Tube lines currently run by Metronet.
Meanwhile, London economists are predicting losses of up to £50 million, and 3.2 million potential London straphangers are left struggling to find alternate routes home. Plus, they could get to do it all over again next week.
Sounds like a blast, no?