Tube workers seek pounds 2,000 `ransom'

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The Independent Online
ELECTRICIANS WORKING on the Jubilee Line extension are demanding a pay-off for finishing the line in time for the opening of the Millennium Dome.

The payment, of up to pounds 2,000, would add up to pounds 1.2m to the construction bill for the project (the JLE) which is already millions of pounds over budget and 18 months behind schedule. The cost has soared from an original budgeted pounds 1.8bn to more than pounds 3bn.

The demand forms part of a redundancy settlement for workers, a common practice on any project with a final end-date. However, the issue is likely to be politically sensitive because of concern over the delays to the JLE.

The engineering union AEEU is negotiating the workers' terms with Drake & Scull, the main electrical contractor on the link. Both sides are furious at reports that the pay-offs could reach pounds 5,000 a person. A senior AEEU official said: "The union is in discussion with the company about the position of the men following completion of the project. But the figures being bandied around are way off the mark, very misleading and potentially damaging to industrial relations on the project."

It is understood relations between managers and unions on the project are much improved since last year when a series of disputes culminated in a 10-day unofficial walkout by the electricians. At the time, London Underground made clear it was deeply disappointed with the low levels of productivity among the electricians.

A Jubilee Line spokeswoman said discussions had been going on between unions and Drake & Scull management since Christmas. "They cover wide- ranging issues to improve productivity by electricians working for Drake & Scull on the JLE. These discussions reflect the JLE's concerns about the low level of productivity achieved on electrical installations."

Drake & Scull will discuss the settlement plan on Monday when the two sides meet to review a "peace plan" on industrial relations for the remaining nine months of the project. This is understood to include issues such as disciplinary action, training seminars and health and safety. It could include an independent audit of safety along the 11-mile route and an increase in the number of safety advisers.

The peace talks follow a series of walkouts over pay and safety issues. The 10-day stoppage was sparked by a decision to transfer a dozen electricians from London Bridge to Green Park. The strikers said the men were being victimised because they pointed out deficiencies in a fire-alarm system at London Bridge. Management disputed the claim, arguing that "bloody- mindedness" not health and safety prompted the walkout.

The JLE project has suffered delays since work started in December 1993. London Underground has put back the final opening date three times from March 1998 to October this year. The first phase, from Stratford in the east to north Greenwich, the site of the Dome in south-east London, will now open at the end of April 1999; the second phase to Waterloo at the end of August; and the final link to the existing Jubilee Line at Green Park in late October.

Major inequalities have been revealed in the distribution of lottery awards, according to a survey for Lottery Monitor magazine published yesterday. Four local authority areas received no awards at all last year, some had more than 100.

The average number stands at 16.8, but while Edinburgh had141 - a total of pounds 21.8m - Mole Valley in Surrey, Christchurch in Dorset, the Isles of Scilly and Tamworth in the West Midlands had no money.

The Highlands, Glasgow and Belfast were top after Edinburgh, and the magazine says that was because of the small-grants programme run by the lottery boards in Scotland which helped people to apply for grants of less than pounds 5,000.

A league table based on the amount of lottery money received per head over the past four years put Westminster top, with pounds 1,804.41 per head, and North East Derbyshire bottom, with just pounds 3.90 per person.