Leftists blamed over rail strikes

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The Independent Online
The hard-left Socialist Labour Party was yesterday accused of blocking settlements of industrial disputes at seven train operating companies which will be hit today by 24-hour strikes.

At London Underground however a reluctant RMT transport union, which is heavily influenced by the SLP, called off stoppages by drivers which were due to affect Tube services today and next Tuesday.

Abandonment of the industrial action came after acceptance of a peace formula earlier this week by drivers from the drivers' union, Aslef, and imposition of the deal on all crew by London Underground yesterday. Management welcomed the decision to call off the action and insisted the deal accepted by RMT was exactly the same as that signed by Aslef. "They have finally seen sense," said a spokesman for London Underground. However, RMT officials claimed they had wrung extra concessions.

Attempts to avert disruption at the seven train companies came to nothing. The impact on timetables will vary depending on how many guards are RMT members. South Wales and West will be worst worst hit, with most of the 500 trains cancelled.

Managers at some of the train operators, formerly part of British Rail, claim that local union representatives have been prevented from signing agreements by the 12-strong rail executive of the RMT, six members of which are members of Arthur Scargill's SLP. A similar claim was made by senior officials at London Underground. Their colleagues in Aslef had already accepted the deal, which concedes a 35-hour working week by 1998, but which only allows for a pay rise of 2 per cent below the inflation rate.

An RMT spokesman insisted the "general grades" executive had gone out of its way to strike a deal with London Underground. Union officials yesterday met representatives of the Acas conciliation service and reached agreement.

In the national rail network it is understood that the union is attempting to impose a model agreement on all 25 train operators and has been keen to prevent local negotiations.

The "overground" dispute centres on claims by guards, conductors and catering staff for extra payments to reward increased productivity.

A half-hourly service between Milton Keynes and Euston is among the trains North London Railways is planning to run and at Regional Railways North East it is hoped to operate a quarter of the timetable. North West Regional Railways are to offer most hourly trains from Manchester airport to Manchester Piccadilly.

All electric trains in Strathclyde will run as normal and among other ScotRail services will be hourly trains between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Inquiries about services can be made on 0345 484950.

t A fresh attempt will be made today to resolve the postal dispute, which yesterday crippled services for the sixth time. The Communication Workers' Union said the 24-hour strike was as solid as the previous stoppage, but managers said millions of letters were delivered.