Train drivers threaten chaos for Channel holiday services

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The Independent Online

Train drivers' leaders threatened yesterday to cause "massive disruption" on cross-Channel vehicle shuttle services at the height of the summer holiday season.

Train drivers' leaders threatened yesterday to cause "massive disruption" on cross-Channel vehicle shuttle services at the height of the summer holiday season.

A dispute with the operator, Eurotunnel, over union recognition of drivers could lead to delays and cancellations in mid-August during one of the busiest times of the year for tourist travel.

Officials at Aslef, the train drivers' union, expect an overwhelming vote in favour of action in a ballot of its members which is due to be completed by 11 August. If the action is approved, an overtime ban would begin seven days later.

The move is in protest at a single-union deal signed earlier this year between Eurotunnel and the Transport and General Workers' Union allowing it to represent all of the company's staff, including train drivers.

Aslef said it was confident of winning a strong "yes" vote for action in the ballot, which will start later this month.

The union's general secretary, Mick Rix, said: "Now is the time for Eurotunnel to show some respect for its own employees and recognise the union of their choice in order to avoid massive disruption."

Aslef has also lodged a formal complaint to the TUC about the TGWU agreeing to the single-union deal.

Drivers on the shuttle trains, which run between Folkestone and Calais, work a lot of overtime, so a ban would have a big impact on services, according to Aslef, which has about 220 members among the 260 Eurotunnel train crew.

Many joined a rally in Folkestone, Kent, last night to voice their anger at the TGWU deal.

Eurotunnel said it had not yet been notified by Aslef about the ballot.

Bill Dix, the managing director, said: "If the threat of a ballot were to result in an overtime ban, we would not expect this to have any effect on our services." The company said its drivers did not work much overtime.

Eurotunnel is anxious to negotiate with one union representing its entire workforce.

However, Aslef represents the overwhelming majority of train drivers in Britain and wants to gain bargaining rights on behalf of its members at Eurotunnel.

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