Trade unions suspended a threat of strike action on the London Underground last week after successful talks with Transport for London (TfL). There has not been a strike on the Tube during 2019 but have industrial relations improved since Sadiq Khan took over as Mayor of London from Boris Johnson three years ago?
Figures obtained by the BBC show that in the past 11 financial years, since Mr Johnson took over as mayor from Ken Livingstone, there have been more than 36,000 days lost to strike action.
The number of days lost is so high because TfL counts “one day lost for every member of staff missing” and it has led one academic to describe the London Underground as “a museum of bad industrial relations”.
Various disputes over issues including ticket office closures, job cuts, new rotas, employee dismissals and the introduction of the Night Tube have resulted in 68 individual dates of strike action since April 2008.
The London School of Economics’s Prof Tony Travers explained these industrial rows resembled “trigger points” that each mayor would aim to avoid in order to prevent any big strikes.
“These trigger points are usually something new,” he said. “These include the Night Tube, Olympics or working Boxing Day.
“Unions have long used the Underground as good leverage when trying to get better pay because of the monopoly that it serves.”
Between April 2008 and May 2012, during Mr Johnson’s first spell as Mayor of London, 12,523 shifts were lost to strike action – despite him trying to negotiate no-strike deals with the Tube unions.
Figures showed a further 19,689 working days were lost while he was mayor during his second term between May 2012 and May 2016.
In his 2016 Mayor of London election campaign Mr Khan pledged to “reduce the number of days lost to strike action” and he has seen 3,824 shifts lost to strike days during his time at City Hall.
While there have been significantly fewer working days lost to strikes under Mr Khan, there have been 25 dates of industrial action in his three years as mayor, compared with 33 across the whole eight years Mr Johnson was in office.
“Under Sadiq there have been fewer days lost,” Prof Travers said. “But the entire record for Tube strikes is particularly dire.”
TfL said the effect of any strike was dependent on the nature of the dispute, the number of unions involved and where the strike had been called.
The figures included strikes that affected either the whole Tube network or just part of it.
A spokesman for the Mayor of London said strike action had “reduced” under Mr Khan because he “listens to the concerns of workers”.
However, Conservative London Assembly member Keith Prince defended Mr Johnson’s record, instead accusing Mr Khan of having a “worse strikes record (than) any of his predecessors”.
According to the TfL data, strike action was predominantly taken by the RMT union, which has about 10,000 members employed on the Tube, and saw workers walk out on 34 occasions.
Aslef, which represents 2,456 Tube drivers, took 13 dates of strike action, while Unite had eight disputes which led to industrial action.
The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) walked out on two occasions over “employee terms and conditions”.
Aslef’s Finn Brennan said his union had “regular meetings between transport unions, Mr Khan and his team”.
He added: “Aslef uses these meetings to highlight issues that go beyond the remit of the machinery meetings with employers and to encourage a more reasonable attitude on matters we have raised with the company.”
Frank Kelly has been a signal operator for more than five decades on the London Underground.
But the signal box he operates will soon be replaced as automation is introduced to signalling at the junction.
And after many years of dedicated service, Frank will be retiring with the signal box.
Alcohol sold in supermarkets should be taxed at a higher rate than drink sold in pubs, a think tank has suggested.
A “pub relief” would make drinking at home less affordable and support the pub sector, according to the Social Market Foundation (SMF).
The Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS), which commissioned the research, said it would help to cut problem drinking.
Taxing cider and wine by the unit in England would also have public health benefits, the IAS said.
The idea would be to shift taxation towards high-strength drinks bought for consumption at home – and away from weaker products bought in pubs and bars, the SMF said.
That could mean that beer in pubs would become less expensive, depending on how the duties were structured.
Taxing cider and wine by the unit, as is already the case with beer and spirits, would also help cut down problem drinking, it added.
According to recent research, cheap supermarket alcohol was the “number one” concern for publicans, said IAS senior policy analyst Aveek Bhattacharya, followed by competition from big chains.
“Wetherspoon’s comes in, and that’s a killer,” he said, adding: “Business rates are a big pressure.”
The number of pubs in the UK has declined by nearly a quarter since 2008 as small pubs disappear and big chains consolidate their businesses, according to the latest official figures.
‘Tougher and tougher’
“I’ve been in the game 20 years, and it’s got tougher and tougher,” says “CJ” Lewis, the manager of the independent King and Queen pub in London’s Fitzrovia district.
“And to be honest, the supermarkets are a little bit to blame,” he says.
He says that alcohol available in supermarkets “is, in theory, too cheap”.
“The price of alcohol here [in the pub] compared with the price in a supermarket is a bit ridiculous.”
However, he adds: “I can’t complain, because I buy it myself.”
He says the idea of higher taxes for alcohol in supermarkets is “great” for the pub industry in theory, but he’s not sure how it would work out in practice.
Supermarkets may still find a way to cut prices, he says.
And any tax relief on beer sold in brewery-owned pubs might be clawed back from landlords by the breweries, he adds. The breweries could charge those landlords more for their beer, and it would stay the same price in the pub for customers, he says.
Mr Bhattacharya said alcohol in supermarkets is cheap for a number of reasons.
Alcohol duty has been cut in real terms every year since 2013, and beer duty in real terms is 18% lower than then.
One of the main reasons supermarket booze is cheaper than pubs is bargaining power, he says.
Supermarkets can squeeze brewers on price because they are such large customers, but when it comes to landlords negotiating with brewers, “the boot’s on the other foot”, he said.
Supermarkets can also use alcohol as a loss leader – that is, it’s sold at a loss to attract shoppers into stores, where they will buy more profitable items.
Duty of care
Katherine Severi, IAS chief executive, said: “Alcohol has become a lot more affordable, and cheaper too, by comparison with other goods… For too long, alcohol duty has been politicised.”
Landlords have a duty of care to people in their pubs, she said, adding that a change in the tax regime would “reduce societal harms”.
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), which represents brewers, said: “The focus should be on reducing the overall beer duty rate, which is one of the highest in the EU and places an enormous burden on pubs.
“It is also important that the report recognises that the excise duty regime should encourage the consumption of lower-strength products.”
A Treasury statement said: “We are committed to supporting our pub industry and responsible drinkers, while tackling the sources of harmful drinking.
“That’s why we’ve consistently cut or frozen alcohol duties, saving drinkers £5.2bn, and introduced a new higher rate of tax for harmful high-strength ciders.”
A teenage boy has been stabbed to death in east London.
Metropolitan Police officers were called to a report of a “fight in progress” in Byford Close, Stratford, at 18:45 BST on Tuesday.
No arrests have been made but the death is being treated as murder, police said.
A section 60 order, which allows police to stop and search people, has been put in place for the whole of Newham borough until 12:30.
Two men are in hospital after a double stabbing at a Tube station in south London.
Police were called to Elephant and Castle station at about 23:30 BST on Sunday and found two men with stab wounds in a street nearby.
A 24-year-old man is in a critical condition and a 25-year-old is in a serious condition.
British Transport Police said it was “a shocking act of violence” and two men had been arrested.
Det Ch Insp Sam Blackburn said: “At this time we believe there was an altercation between two groups of men inside the Underground station and it is here the victims sustained their injuries before making their way on to the street.”
The station is likely to be closed on Monday morning as forensic examinations take place.
Three people have been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after a 15-year-old boy was stabbed.
The victim remains in a critical condition in hospital following the attack in Tottenham, north London, on Friday.
He was found with multiple stab wounds on Willan Road, in the Broadwater Farm estate, at around 11:15 BST.
Scotland Yard said three males were detained in connection with the incident on Friday evening.
Officers believe the boy was involved in an altercation shortly before he was stabbed, possibly by a suspect riding a bicycle.
Police would like to speak to members of the public who gave first aid to the victim at the scene.
Det Insp Paul Ridley said: “I am keen to hear from anyone who either witnessed, or has information concerning this attack.
“The victim, not yet 16 years old, sustained multiple stab wounds and is fighting for his life.
“If you know anything about the circumstances surrounding the incident or if you witnessed it, please do come forward.
“I would also appeal to the members of the public who valiantly administered crucial first aid to the victim to come forward to my investigation team.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101.
Kano’s last album – the 2016 MOBO-winning Made in the Manor – was an introspective reflection on his journey, friends, family and rivals. This time around, with knife crime on the rise again, the east London MC is looking and speaking out.
The 34-year-old rapper / actor has a starring role in the returning crime drama Top Boy and his sixth LP Hoodies All Summer sees him combine music and drama to devastating effect.
The powerful music video for lead single Trouble begins with a sample of an old speech by the late activist Darcus Howe, blaming politicians and police for failing black communities and creating disharmony.
Kano picks up the threads of Howe’s argument in his eerily-jaunty opening verse: “Politician, hush don’t make a sound / Been oppressing us couple centuries now / And these gunshots never reach your town / It’s never on top when you leave your house.”
The whole piece then crashes down to a gospel prayer after the video’s young protagonist, Nate, is stabbed to death in broad daylight while playing with his friends. Now with more than 100 people having been fatally stabbed in the UK this year – the youngest, Jaden Moodie, was just 14 years old when he was killed in nearby Leyton – Kano wants his music to become “a direct conversation with people of the community that I’m from”.
“I do see what’s going on, things do trouble me and it’s natural that will creep into my music,” he says. “I don’t want to be a preachy person. It’s more like ‘I get it.’
“‘I know the wider world might not get it and I know the media might not get it when a kid gets stabbed and they throw him up on screen and act like he was a gang member when he wasn’t – trying to blame the parents and everyone but the system that’s been created.”
“I think great art poses questions and doesn’t necessarily give answers and solutions – that’s not what I’m trying to do,” he adds.
“I’m here to show you my perspective, as an older person. I’m not not silly enough to think someone’s going to stop violence.
“I’m just trying to humanise situations and represent voices that aren’t being represented.”
Poet Caleb Femi has called Kano a musical spokesperson – a modern-day Bob Dylan or Tupac Shakur for Britain’s youth.
“In these times of uncertain political leadership, the endz have found their own prime minster in Kano” he writes.
“The endz minister?!” laughs Kano, whose real name is Kane Robinson. “I don’t want that job – it’s hard enough doing the jobs I do right now!”
After thanking Femi for those “kind words” he stresses the importance of his own being able to “stand the test of time.”
“This album in particular I just kept thinking about myself in the future, looking back and could I be proud of what I’ve done?
“If I had an album full of party tunes in a time like this, would that be acceptable for the artist that I believe I am?”
That’s why, when other artists are drip-feeding a constant supply of “content”, Kano is happy to operate in his own time and on his own terms.
His new record, featuring Kojo Funds, Popcaan and Lil Silva, melds UK hip-hop, grime and garage influences, as well as jungle and dancehall – reflecting his Jamaican roots. The penultimate track, Class of Deja, sees him re-connect with Ghetts and D Double E – all members of the legendary N.A.S.T.Y Crew, who are widely considered pioneers of the grime scene in the early noughties.
Kano says he’s pleased to have “inspired a generation of young artists,” recalling how, before the scene exploded and started putting “dollar signs” in people’s eyes, artists like himself, Wiley, Dizzee Rascal and Lethal Bizzle were spitting bars on pirate radio simply “because we loved it”.
One of the young fans galvanised by those trailblazers was Stormzy – who made sure to thank Kano and his cohorts for “paving the way” during his historic Glastonbury headline performance in June.
Likewise, Kano acknowledges Stormzy in his album opener, Free Years Later. But rather than celebrate his success, he recalls how police allegedly kicked open his front door, after a neighbour mistook him for a burglar. As Kano notes, “as a young, successful black man in this country – in some people’s eyes you still don’t belong”.
Perhaps that’s why he’s determined to colonise spaces that aren’t a natural home for UK rap – with a five date-tour of lavish venues like the Royal Albert Hall and Manchester namesake the Albert Hall, in October.
“I don’t remember many moments of our kind of music in those buildings,” he observes.
Before that, however, the star will reprise his debut acting role as Sully, a drug dealer on the fictional Hackney estate of Summerhouse, in Top Boy.
The cult series looked to have bitten the dust after being dropped by Channel 4 in 2014, only to be saved by high-profile fan and soon-to-be Netflix executive producer, Drake.
“He just let them know ‘I’m a big fan of the show. If there’s anything I could do to help get it back I would love to do so. I’m serious.’
“Shortly after that we sat down, me, him and [actor] Ash [Walters] and spoke about our ambitions.
“He was like ‘I don’t want to get involved in creating it. I want you guys to do what you do.'”
While there’s “definitely no cameo” from Drizzy there will be appearances from Dave – “a natural on camera” – and the “unstoppable” Little Simz.
How then do so many rappers – from Will Smith to Queen Latifah – move into acting so seamlessly?
“Hip-hop is the art of story-telling,” Kano muses, noting acting is “allowing yourself to become vulnerable”.
“Maybe there’s a confidence that it takes.”
Confidence and looking out, as well as looking in.
Hoodies All Summer by Kano is out on 30 August and Top Boy returns on 13 September.
A teenager has been stabbed to death in Newham, east London.
The Metropolitan Police said the man, believed to be 18, was found critically injured with stab wounds at 15:30 BST in Chadd Green.
Officers and London Ambulance Service attended. The teenager was pronounced dead an hour later.
The Met said the next of kin had been informed. A post-mortem examination and formal identification are being arranged.
An investigation is under way, but there have not yet been any arrests.