Tube drivers plan strikes over Christmas period

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The Independent Online

A key part of London Underground will be severely disrupted on Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day when drivers walk out over a dismissal of a colleague, Chris Barrett, who played squash while on sick leave with an ankle injury.

Tube drivers belonging to the RMT rail union are to halt work on the Circle and the Hammersmith & City routes, which carry about 400,000 people a day. They say Mr Barrett's sacking was unfair.

The strikes, called yesterday after Bob Crow, the general secretary of the union, failed to win reinstatement for Mr Barrett, were dismissed as "predictable but unacceptable" by Lynne Featherstone, chair of the London Assembly's transport committee.

The union staged a strike last month over the issue which closed the Circle line and led to limited services on the Hammersmith & City line.

The planned stoppage will begin at 4.30am on 24 December 24 and end at 4.30am on 25 December. The following strike is to last 24 hours from noon on 31 December.

Mr Barrett was disciplined after being seen leaving a sports centre. He says he had been ordered by his doctor to play squash to aid recovery.

Mr Crow urged management to go to the conciliation service Acas to avoid the action which, he said, enjoyed the full support of drivers.

A spokesman for London Underground said: "We are surprised RMT is taking action again, especially as Londoners try to enjoy their Christmas and New Year."

The spokesman said management would seek to provide the best possible service.