London Underground is facing the threat of strikes after revealing plans to cut hundreds of jobs.
Between 500 and 600 posts are threatened, with LU saying the impact of the pandemic on its finances has made a programme of change “urgently necessary”.
Unions attacked the news, with the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) confirming plans for a strike ballot.
Nick Dent, London Underground’s director of customer operations, said: “We have been engaging with our trade unions and our staff to seek their views on how we can make LU more efficient and financially sustainable, while continuing to deliver the highest standards of safety, reliability and customer service.
“We have now begun consulting with our trade unions on proposals to change the way we work in the Customer Service area of LU.
“We remain completely committed to retaining our customer service offer, with stations staffed at all times while trains are operating.
“The safety and security of customers and colleagues is still our top priority, and we will ensure in all circumstances our staff will continue to be visible and available to help customers at all times – including offering the on-demand Turn Up and Go service to assist disabled customers.
“Changes will be closely monitored to ensure that the highest levels of safety and customer service continue to be met. The discussions are at an early stage, and we will continue to work with our employees and trade union colleagues as proposals are developed.”
The RMT said it will ballot 10,000 of its members for strikes, with the result known early in the new year.
General Secretary Mick Lynch said: “A financial crisis at Transport for London has been deliberately engineered by the Government to drive a cuts agenda which would savage jobs, services, safety and threaten the working conditions and pensions of our members.
“Today we have seen the opening salvo in what will become an all-out assault on safety critical staff posts with 600 jobs on the block, mainly amongst our station members.
“The ballot opens on Monday and we will be campaigning for a massive yes vote. The politicians need to wake up to the fact that transport staff will not pay the price for this cynically engineered crisis and we will coordinate a campaign of resistance with colleagues from other unions impacted by this threat.”
The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) called the cuts “completely unacceptable” and the pre-Christmas timing “shameful”.
Lorraine Ward, the union’s organising director, said: “We need to encourage more people onto public transport, but cutting station staff will damage that effort.
“Staff are already fearful for their futures and the way that London Underground has snuck this out just weeks before Christmas is shameful.
“TSSA will fight these job losses and stand up for our members and passengers. We are totally opposed to any job cuts across London Underground and TfL.”
TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes added: “The Tories must stop playing political football with public transport in our capital city.
“Government must provide – as is the case for major cities across the world – the Mayor the funds he needs to keep services running and safe staffing levels at all stations.”