Station staff join conflict on Tube joined by 5,000

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The management of London Underground was accused yesterday of inflaming the dispute with drivers as a further 5,000 employees were set to join the conflict.

Managers told the two unions involved, RMT and Aslef, that the company would consider returning to the conciliation service Acas if the 24-hour stoppage scheduled for this Monday was called off.

Union officials reacted with anger. Jimmy Knapp, RMT general secretary, said: "Why on earth should we call off the strike on the basis that they might 'think' about going to Acas? They are either being deliberately inflammatory or amateurish. Perhaps the Government is behind all this, seeking to prolong the industrial action because they think they can derive some political advantage from it."

As the trench warfare continued, strike ballot papers were sent to another 5,000 Underground employees - signalling, maintenance and station staff. Like the drivers, they are seeking a cut in hours. They are expected to vote overwhelmingly for action.

The ballot result, due on 7 August, could be followed by a considerable escalation of the disruption on the Tube. In addition to next Monday's action, six further 24-hour walk-outs by drivers are already planned, for 7,13, 23 and 27 August and 5 and 9 September.

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