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Talks to avert two weeks of transport disruption in London were continuing as London Underground bosses outlined plans to deal with a total of five days of strikes on the tube, starting on Monday night.
Hopes that strikes could be called off have faded with an increasingly bitter public war of words between London Underground (LU) and the RMT union. Tube bosses believe that industrial action cannot ultimately stop what they describe as the modernisation of the underground, referring to the 2012 Olympics as a model for the proposed changes, which would see hundreds of jobs lost and station ticket offices closed.
David Cameron also condemned the strike. He tweeted: “Next week’s tube strike is unjustified and unacceptable. It will hit millions of families across the capital and cause chaos for businesses.”
LU has taken out full-page advertisements in the London press to make its case to commuters, setting out its plans to have more staff visible and available to help customers in public areas of tube stations. With hundreds of staff already seeking voluntary redundancy, the company said no one will be laid off, and added that it is “seeking ways to ensure” no staff see their pay cut.
But the RMT claims services will be harmed, job losses will rise and ordinary staff could face heavy pay cuts while senior management pay levels increase. The union’s acting general secretary, Mick Cash, accused Transport for London of “spinning politically motivated lies and smears” and reneging on the promise of a full and thorough station-by-station review of the cuts and closures.
TFL said it would be running as many tube services as possible should the strike go ahead, but admitted disruption was inevitable and customers were urged to check before they travel. There will also be extra bus and river services, and backroom staff will be deployed to help keep stations open and provide travel information and advice.
A 48-hour strike starts on Monday evening at 9pm, with a further walkout the following Monday, 5 May, for 72 hours. Unlike the strikes in February, RMT members will not be joined by TSSA in industrial action.
Phil Hufton, LU’s chief operating officer, said management had listened to union concerns during eight weeks of meetings. “We’ve provided guarantees that not a single member of staff will be forced to leave LU, that no supervisors must apply for their own job and we are seeking ways to ensure that no member of staff sees their pay cut as a result of these changes.
“Given these commitments and guarantees, Londoners will rightly be asking why the RMT is threatening five days of strikes? All it will achieve is disruption to Londoners and a loss of pay for all those staff who take part.”
TfL has appealed to London businesses to allow flexible working, to encourage staff to walk and cycle in and make it easier by permitting casual work clothes on strike days.
TfL said tube services would be affected from around 9.30pm on Monday, and would not start running until at least 7am on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the latest trains running only until 11pm – with last central London services departing as early as 9.30am.
Most tube services will only operate a reduced number of trains, covering certain stretches of the lines and stopping at intermittent stations. The Piccadilly and Central lines will not operate through the middle of London. Full details are published on the TfL website.
A separate strike by the RMT will also hit Heathrow Express services on Tuesday and Wednesday, although some trains will operate.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk