Talks aim to head off Tube walk-out chaos

Talks aimed at averting a strike by thousands of London Underground workers will be held today with time running out for heading off travel chaos in the capital.

Some 7,500 members of the RMT union will walk out for 24 hours from 6.30pm tomorrow in a dispute over pay and conditions, threatening to cripple Tube services.

Union leaders will meet LU managers in London to try to break the deadlock, but hopes of a deal were not high.

A simultaneous strike on the railways was called off last week after talks between the RMT's general secretary, Bob Crow, and Network Rail's chief executive, John Armitt.

Mr Crow said he was "astonished" that talks had not been held this weekend, adding that he had "no confidence" in the managers who have been involved in negotiations so far.

Mr Crow will be at his union's annual conference in Ports-mouth all week, but if there is a breakthrough in the talks the RMT's leadership will be able to call off the strike.

The dispute has worsened because of a dispute between the union and Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, who said he would cross the picket line if he was an RMT member because he believed the proposed deal should be accepted.

Mr Livingstone said an offer of 6.5 per cent over two years and guarantees to move to a 35-hour week by 2006 were "extremely generous".

But the union said it was not happy with "strings" attached to the deal, which it said could lead to 800 job losses.

The row prompted Mr Crow to resign last week from the board of Transport for London.

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