London walks, drives and rides to work (after a lot of queueing)

Millions of commuters hit by Tube drivers' strike as rival unions fall out over industrial action
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The Independent Online

London Underground workers were at loggerheads with each other yesterday as hundreds of drivers defied a 48-hour strike and crossed the picket lines to run a limited service on the capital's tube lines.

A row broke out between The Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, which had called the strike, and rival union Aslef, whose members crossed the picket lines for the first time in a tube strike.

The RMT accused Aslef of rolling over and failing to challenge London Underground management on redundancies and pay, while Aslef said the accusation was "offensive nonsense".

Aslef, which represents 2,000 tube drivers, said that the strike action was inappropriate when progress was being made in negotiations.

Last night, a spokesman for Aslef said: "As well as management and the public, it seems Bob Crow [the general secretary of RMT] is now doing his best to annoy fellow trade unions. This has left Aslef's negotiators deeply angry. [Aslef general secretary] Keith Norman says that the picture of his union rolling over in front of management is 'offensive nonsense'.

"Aslef has argued its case coherently and firmly, and will continue to do so without reverting to premature industrial action."

It emerged that Some of RMT's own members had also broken the strike.

London Underground insisted that a third of its services were working yesterday and it would do its best to try and accommodate thousands of football fans heading for Wembley last night for England's World Cup game against Andorra.

The minister for London Tessa Jowell said: "It's completely unacceptable that commuters' lives have been made a misery because of a strike voted for by fewer than 30 per cent of the RMT's members. It's vital that both sides resume talks immediately and get the Tube running properly again as soon as possible." The RMT, which called the 48-hour strike from 7pm on Tuesday after last-ditch talks over pay, jobs and disciplinary issues broke down, insisted it had "overwhelmingly solid support" from its members and only a "tiny handful" had crossed the picket lines. Yesterday, London Underground and the RMT insisted that they wanted to return to the negotiating table.

The union accused the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, of "sabotaging" efforts to resolve the dispute.

Mr Crow, who joined a picket line outside Seven Sisters Tube station in North London, said the basis of a deal had been worked out during seven hours of talks at the conciliation service Acas but that underground management "reneged on it".

The Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy said that claims that Mr Johnson and Transport for London had scuppered the talks were "utter nonsense". He repeated his plea for the strike to be called off.

Mr Johnson said the strike was "unnecessary and misery-making".

"The two sides are extremely close. "It is essential that people of goodwill get around the negotiating table."

Despite moves to multiply riverboat trips by five, add 100 bus services and organise marshalled cycle rides, Mr Johnson refused to lift the congestion charge for drivers who forced to commute into London by car, insisting it would encourage gridlock.

Thousands of football fans heading to the World Cup game at Wembley suffered an added blow when two companies operating overground rail services – London Midland and Chiltern Railways – said they had been advised not to stop near the stadium for fear that overcrowding would be "unsustainable" and could cause safety problems. A spokesman for Chiltern Railways said: "The Football Association has advised that refunds will be made available to ticketholders who decide not to attend this game because of the Tube strike."

Tube workers' salaries

£40,112 Train operator

£35,649 Station supervisor (to £39,316)

£24,290 Station assistant

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