Labour angry at train drivers

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The Independent Online

Labour Editor

Senior Shadow Cabinet members have warned train drivers' leaders that they can expect no backing from the Labour leadership for their campaign of 24-hour strikes which began at midnight.

Lew Adams, general secretary of Aslef, the train drivers' union, has been told that the union will have to fight its own battles over pay without any help from party leaders. Tony Blair distanced himself from last year's signal workers' strikes, but this time Labour is particularly angry over the timing of the third stoppage scheduled for 27 July. The strike coincides with the key Saddleworth by-election and it is known that the party believes it could damage their candidate's prospects.

Labour has also distanced itself from action planned in the health service by the Unison public service union, which yesterday ordered a ballot on strikes to begin with a 24-hour walk-out in September. The union published a MORI poll which found that 71 per cent of the electorate supported stoppages in the NHS.

At British Rail last night a spokesman conceded that only a handful of passenger services will run today as drivers stage the first of six day- long strikes in protest at a 3 per cent pay offer. Apart from early tomorrow morning, the Saturday timetable should be back to normal, the BR spokesman said. Aslef plans a 24-hour walk-out next Tuesday and strikes on 27 July, 8 and 25 August and 12 September when tube workers are planning strikes.

Yesterday there was a stand-off between British Rail and Aslef after the union rejected a proposal which would earn their members up to pounds 200 in bonuses depending on the financial performance of local operators.

At British Airways the threat to August Bank Holiday flights was removed yesterday. The Transport and General Workers' Union accepted a deal over the company's bargaining structure. The union planned the action in protest at an attempt to introduce localised bargaining based at the 22 BA businesses.