Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Red Ken Resurrected

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Red Ken Resurrected

Article excerpt

THE MAYOR has at last stopped sitting on his hands and has intervened in the current series of Tube strikes. But at what price? He has agreed with Bob Crow and Mike Rix of the Tube drivers' unions that he will refer their pay and conditions dispute to independent arbitration when Transport for London take over management of the Underground next April. This is expected to deliver more than the current offer of 3 per cent. Whether the Mayor is entitled to make such an offer is subject to legal scrutiny.

For the time being, however, there is a deal. This newspaper and many thousands of furious passengers have called for his intervention to end strikes that have cost London's economy an estimated pound sterling60 million a day and driven travellers to distraction. But no-one was asking for intervention with a blank cheque. Now the Mayor has effectively offered the strikers first call on TfL's stretched resources. Of course, as the Mayor's pound sterling260 taxi ride from Blackpool showed us last week, it isn't really money when somebody else is paying. Already Mr Crow has been boasting of lavish summer holidays for his members; the thought of traindrivers living it up in Mauritius will no doubt cheer up the rest of us as we struggle to work on a stifling Underground next August. But the money has to come from somewhere. If it turns out that the eventual pay deal is generous, we will hardly regard Mr Livingstone's kowtowing to the hard men as an act of statesmanship. Indeed, foulmouthed and mean-spirited remarks that he would not give London Underground's negotiator "a job cleaning my toilet", and dismissal of LU management as "knuckleheads" reveal the real Ken, posturing irresponsibly without regard for the consequences of what he says. And it will happen again. Mr Crow and Mr Rix have now learnt that they have only to twitch their newly flexed muscles and the Mayor will come running.

Not only for the Tube, but for taxpayers and users of all public services where employees want their slice of increased spending, it is an alarming message indeed.

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