Tube staff vote to strike

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The Independent Online
MILLIONS OF London commuters face severe disruption on the Underground network after staff voted overwhelmingly for strikes that could last up to three days.

Leaders of the RMT rail union have given management until next Thursday to address their concerns about a plan for partial privatisation of the system drawn up by the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott.

Ironically, Mr Prescott is not only considered to be a union sympathiser, but is a leading member of the RMT.

Jimmy Knapp, general secretary of the union, said that his members would be considering during the next week whether to stage walkouts over one, two or three days. London Underground is expected to provide a skeleton service.

Asked why his members were prepared to inflict serious inconvenience on commuters, Mr Knapp said he believed his members enjoyed considerable support. "The public shares the same frustration with the effects of privatisation as our members. They can see the validity of our argument." The RMT leader said his members were deeply concerned about their job security because of a scheme to "contract out" part of the network's infrastructure.

Mr Knapp estimates that about 4,000 employees could find themselves switched to new companies under the plan. The union is seeking confirmation that no member will be transferred to the new businesses without consent. Mr Knapp said management had written to all employees saying if they did not transfer they would be deemed to have resigned.

A management spokesman said the union had chosen to ignore repeated assurance from Mr Prescott about their jobs. The RMT had chosen the "path of confrontation", he said.