Tube staff to strike in 'alcohol sackings' row

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London Underground workers are to stage a one-day strike in a row over the sacking of maintenance staff, threatening travel chaos for commuters and visitors.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union employed by Metronet voted to back a campaign of industrial action by five to one. The strike, on 12 March, will be the biggest walkout on the Tube for more than 18 months.

The action will cripple services on the District, Metropolitan, Circle, Hammersmith & City and East London lines which are used by around 1.4 million people a day.

Tube drivers could refuse to take out trains if they have concerns over safety as a result of industrial action, which could cause even further disruption.

The dispute follows the sacking of eight maintenance workers at Farringdon in central London after the discovery of more than 100 empty beer cans and an empty brandy bottle in their mess room.

The men protested their innocence and said they knew nothing about the cans or the bottle.

Metronet sacked the workers, saying they were fully aware that alcohol was being stored on the premises, which was against the company's "robust" policy.

The firm said it was not suggesting the men had been drinking but that they were aware alcohol was being stored against the rules.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT, said the workers had voted "overwhelmingly" for strike action.

"All of the people who were sacked were tested and proved negative for alcohol.

"There is not a shred of evidence that says any of these men were guilty. Management should do the decent thing and stop conducting a witch hunt in which, if the witch drowns, she is not guilty and if she stays afloat she is a witch.

"Otherwise there will be serious disputation on Tube lines."

RMT members refused to drive Tube trains during the bitter firefighters' strike because they were concerned about the safety of passengers.

The union had been planning to take the drivers' case to an employment tribunal after their pay was docked but LU settled the case before it was heard.