Tube drivers call strikes for rail stoppage days

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The Independent Online
The summer of misery faced by commuters intensified yesterday after train drivers called strikes on London Underground.

All five 24-hour stoppages on the London network coincide with day-long strikes on British Rail except for a unilateral walkout on 3 August.

Talks at London Underground (LUL) broke up after just over an hour last night with management refusing to increase the 2.75 per cent pay offer. Slender hopes that LUL might match the 3 per cent offer by British Rail were quickly dashed when leaders of Aslef, the train drivers' union, arrived for talks at London Underground headquarters.

While Tube management said they were prepared to "clarify" their offer and emphasised improvements available in maternity and paternity leave, there was no question of more money on basic rates.

Aslef leaders called the stoppages on the Underground after a ballot vote released yesterday showed a 1,025 to 322 vote in favour of action.

The seeming intransigence at LUL and the refusal by BR to pay their drivers an inflation- plus increase, sets the scene for a prolonged battle. Union leaders believe the Government is behind the tough line at BR, but contend London Underground is taking the policy a stage further by undercutting the 3 per cent public sector pay policy.

Union suspicions that the ministers are "pulling the strings" will be reinforced by the news that Michael Heseltine, Deputy Prime Minister, and cabinet colleagues, were briefed yesterday on the chances of industrial unrest in the public sector. Whitehall sources denied it was a "crisis meeting" but it underlined the concern felt by the Government over industrial action on the railways and in the health service.

An LUL spokesman said the 2.75 per cent offer was all the business could afford, but was at pains to point out that deals had always been reached around the negotiating table. "Industrial action won't get anyone anywhere. It will lose the system customers, staff will lose money and the business will lose revenue."

Lew Adams, Aslef's general secretary, said the extra day's strike had been called to show members' strength of feeling.

At BR, a plan to make small improvements in the service on strike days was under threat after leaders of RMT, the rail industry's biggest union, revealed plans to ballot its 600 BR drivers on industrial action. The ballot is being called because an offer of pounds 200 in bonuses made to Aslef, was not put before their members. Aslef membership at BR stands at more than 12,000.


27 JULY - British Rail: 24-hour stoppage by Aslef drivers. Handful of trains to run. London Underground: day-long walkout by all drivers, and members of the RMT union who work as platform and booking office staff and engineers. Little prospect of any Tube trains.

3 AUGUST - British Rail: No industrial action. London Underground: Aslef tube drivers on strike for a day. Other employees working normally, but few services will run.

8 AUGUST - Similar situation to 27 July. British Rail: slightly more trains to run. London Underground: expected to be virtually at a standstill.

25 AUGUST: - British Rail: Aslef drivers on strike; possibly minor improvement in timetable. London Underground: Aslef drivers on strike. The RMT union has yet to decide whether to join tube strikers. At best, only a few Tube services to run.

12 SEPTEMBER - Similar situation to 25 August.