London commuter rail staff vote for strikes

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The Independent Online

Rail workers on three commuter services in and around London have voted in favour of strikes over job cuts and safety issues, their union said today.

The Rail Maritime and Transport Workers union said members at National Express's East Anglia Line, First Group's First Capital Connect and London Overground had all voted for industrial action.

But workers at Stagecoach's South West Trains narrowly voted against striking, it said.

"Our members at National Express East Anglia and First Capital Connect have struck a blow against selfish employers who are seeking to slash jobs solely in order to maintain profits and dividends," said RMT general secretary Bob Crow.

Train operators are planning to cut hundreds of jobs, arguing that the recession would cause slower rail growth and a reduction in revenue.

The union balloted its members because employers had not ruled out making compulsory redundancies.

Crow said the union's executive would meet shortly to decide what form of industrial action to take if the threat of job cuts was not removed.

A National Express East Anglia spokesman said its job reductions had all been achieved by managing vacancies or through voluntary redundancy.

"The RMT are pursuing a needless dispute which will only result in loss of earnings for their members," he said.

The operator would be able to run the majority of its trains in the event of a strike, he added.

The dispute at London Overground, owned by Germany's Deutsche Bahn and MTR of Hong Kong, revolves round what the RMT calls a breakdown of industrial relations over issues such as safety and restructuring.

"RMT members at LOROL (London Overground) have demonstrated exactly how they feel by returning a massive vote for action, and I hope that the company will now acknowledge that depth of feeling when they meet our reps," he added.

The union has said it may consider coordinating strike action if the disputes worsen, bringing chaos to passengers in and around the capital.