Fresh row over tube jobs ahead of talks

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The Independent Online

A new row over job cuts on London Underground flared today ahead of peace talks aimed at averting more strikes by thousands of Tube workers.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) claimed that LU was planning to cut up to a third of repair teams looking after lifts and escalators across the network.

General secretary Gerry Doherty claimed that the cuts would hit young mothers and the elderly the hardest as lifts and escalators were left unrepaired and they were forced to use stairs.

He claimed that maintenance firm Tube Lines, which looks after the Northern, Piccadilly and Jubilee Lines, was cutting 20 jobs from its 60 strong repair team while Otis, which serves the whole Tube network, was cutting 80 jobs from its 500 strong workforce.

"You cannot chop these amount of jobs without an impact on day to day operations. Londoners will face a worse journey to work with more and more lifts and escalators simply not working as they should."

Members of the TSSA and the Rail Maritime and Transport union walked out earlier this month, disrupting Tube services, with further 24-hour stoppages planed from October 3, November 2 and 28.

The unions are fighting plans to cut 800 jobs, mainly at ticket offices, with Transport for London arguing that many only sell a few tickets an hour because of the success of the Oyster pre-payment system.

The talks, at the conciliation service Acas, will be held as workers continue with an overtime ban, which the unions claimed is starting to "bite".

Howard Collins, London Underground's chief operating officer, said he hoped to make some "genuine progress" at today's talks, adding: "We will be assuring the unions unequivocally that these proposals come at no cost to LU's high safety standards, and we will be engaging in full safety consultations at each station with unions.

"We will implement these changes without compulsory redundancies, we have committed to staffing all of our stations at all times, and all stations with a ticket office will continue to have one."

A TfL spokesman said: "These claims are nonsense and we do not recognise these figures.

"There may be some small reduction of a few jobs in the Tube Lines escalator and lift team, but this was always envisaged from the start of the upgrade works as station upgrade works have largely been done in the first seven-and-a-half years of the contracts.

"This will have no impact whatsoever on lift and escalator availability for passengers and fault response and fix times, which have been improved significantly.

"We urge the TSSA to stop these bogus claims. We cannot speak for any outside contractor and their management of staff."