Rail bosses will break strike

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The Independent Online
BRITISH Rail and London Underground managements are preparing to run trains and tubes in defiance of strike votes by drivers and station staff.

The plans will increase pressure on the rail unions to take part in talks aimed at averting the national stoppages, which are due to begin on Friday.

Leaders of the footplate union, Aslef, are expected to meet BR tomorrow following votes by the main rail union RMT not to disrupt the railway system but to stage a one-day strike on the Underground on 27 July.

Lew Adams, general secretary of Aslef, said it was his "fervent wish" not to have a strike. "We still have time to resolve this issue," he said. "If the strikes begin, I cannot see that the dispute will finish quickly. If there is no movement soon, I believe we are in for a lengthy dispute."

British Rail said it would be "futile" for the train drivers to go ahead with their six threatened 24-hour strikes in the light of the RMT decision. But Aslef sources said the appeal was likely to fall on deaf ears. The 12,000-strong footplate union has rejected BR's "final" pay offer of 3 per cent, and insists on an increase higher than the 3.4 per cent rate of inflation.

BR is putting pressure on managers to drive trains during the strikes. Drivers who have been promoted to supervisory grades say they have been offered five-day intensive retraining courses.

And on the London Underground, managers plan to operate as near-normal a service as possible when the RMT stages a 24-hour walkout to coincide with Aslef's third one-day stoppage. Most rail union members on the Underground are in engineering and station grades.

It is thought that BR is trying to emulate Railtrack, which ran services on most mainline routes during the signal workers' strikes last summer with the help of managers. But Lew Adams has warned British Rail that such a strategy could have serious implications for safety.

Mr Adams has written to Terry Worrall, British Rail's director of safety, seeking assurances that supervisors will not be coerced into driving trains.

A spokesman for British Rail said he was not aware of any attempts to use managers to break the strike. "We would not allow anyone to drive a train unless they were properly qualified and certificated," he said.