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Has the Mayor called the union's bluff?

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Tom Edwards Tom Edwards | 12:48 UK time, Friday, 21 January 2011

Here's the reply (pdf) from the Tube driver's union ASLEF to the Mayor Boris Johnson.

He'd previously invited them to City Hall to talk about strategy IF they dropped the threat of a strike on the day of the Royal Wedding.

What the letter does is turn down a meeting - for now.

As it stands the threat of a strike on the Royal wedding remains remote according to ASLEF HQ.

The letter says: "I fully expect it be resolved amicably."

At the time I said on BBC 5live that I wouldn't put money on a strike going ahead. And called it union sabre-rattling.

Note that a strike on the Royal wedding day has not yet been ruled out entirely. Some thought (even within BBC London) that we shouldn't have done the story at all.

However, the waters were muddied considerably because the union was not putting forward a uniform message.

Unions are, most of the time, a collection of diverse opinions and there is a certain amount of briefing and counter briefing to the media to nudge some policies along.

And while Branch Organisers and members may have no fear striking on the day of the Royal Wedding - the ASLEF Executive clearly do not have much appetite for one on that day and slapped down the idea.

Presumably as they know there would be very little sympathy from the public and PR-wise it could be a disaster.

Behind the scenes at ASLEF I'm told there is heated disagreement over the next move.

Back to the letter and City Hall will undoubtedly use this to show they have invited transport unions in for talks. And so you can expect this to be recited any time Labour or the unions say the Mayor isn't engaging.

So did Boris Johnson call the union's bluff?

The Mayor may indeed have wanted talks about long-term transport strategy but it does look like he successfully called their bluff.

But can City Hall use that as blanket proof that the Mayor is trying to engage with the all the unions?

No. ASLEF is only one of three of the major unions on the tube - the others being the RMT and TSSA.

And I can't see a meeting between Bob Crow and the Mayor anytime soon...

Follow me on Twitter: @TomSEdwards


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