Ken Livingstone funders deliver their Christmas present

(Updated – with result of legal action)

Transport for London has failed in its court bid to block a strike by the Tube drivers’ union, Aslef, on Boxing Day.

In 1996 Aslef signed an agreement for its members to work on Bank Holidays in return for higher pay and longer holidays. They are now paid more than £40,000 a year for a 35-hour week, and get almost seven weeks’ holiday a year.

Now, however, Aslef has demanded to be paid triple time – around £495 for the day, or around £70 an hour – for working on December 26, plus a further day off in lieu. That’s what the strike’s about.

After the bad weather earlier this week, London retailers were hoping for a boost from the Boxing Day sales. If the Tube’s not working properly, they won’t get it. Services at Christmas have already been reduced – until the 1980s, the Tube used to run on Christmas Day as well, just like public transport virtually everywhere else in the world. If Aslef gets its way, it could become impossible to run on Boxing Day too.

Boris Johnson, business leaders and virtually everyone you can think of have condemned the strike, and all the other – equally ridiculous – disputes mounted by the RMT and TSSA over various non-issues in the last three months.

But one doughty champion of oppressed Londoners has fallen completely quiet over Aslef’s threat to spoil Christmas reunions for thousands of people. Can Ken Livingstone’s silence be in any way connected to the fact that his campaign has received thousands of pounds in donations from Aslef?

Indeed, in all the months of Tube strikes, Ken Livingstone has never once condemned any of the unions. Can this be in any way connected to the fact that Ken’s campaign for mayor is run out of an office in the Euston headquarters of one of the other striking unions, the TSSA?

Last week, Ken’s running-mate, Val Shawcross, was pictured supporting the RMT and TSSA strikers. This week the man in charge of Ken’s campaign, Simon Fletcher, attacked as “terrible” a Guardian leader criticising calls for “coordinated industrial action.” The side Ken has chosen in these strikes is a useful reminder of where his true loyalties lie. In the rather unlikely event that he is elected mayor in 2012, he will not be working for Londoners as a whole – but for some of the city’s greediest sectional interests.

(Update: The actual address of Ken’s campaign office – Walkden House, 10 Melton Street, London NW1, ie TSSA HQ – was removed from his website after my original post. However several of his campaign materials, available online, still show it, until they too are doubtless taken down; don’t worry, I do have printouts. The contact information now given on Ken’s website is a c/o Labour HQ,  in other words a forwarding address. Which rather suggests he’s still with the TSSA.)

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