Tube strike leader calls for more talks

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The leader of striking Tube drivers called today for fresh talks to try to avert more misery for millions of travellers as he claimed that a deal to end the dispute had been "sabotaged".

Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, contacted conciliation service Acas to ask it to convene a meeting with London Underground (LU) managers.

Mr Crow said there was one outstanding issue, job security, which needed to be resolved before the industrial action could be called off.

The move came as millions of commuters and visitors to the capital suffered travel chaos because of a 48-hour strike which started at 7pm last night.

Thousands of England soccer fans will also have huge problems travelling to Wembley for tonight's World Cup game with Andorra.

Mr Crow, who joined strikers on picket lines this morning, wrote to London mayor Boris Johnson asking for a meeting and complaining of a "pack of lies" from LU.

He wrote: "This is my 31st year as a member of the RMT and a worker on London Underground and in all that time I have never experienced such dishonesty from any management that I have dealt with.

"The facts are that yesterday the RMT negotiating team and myself attended nearly seven hours of talks at Acas at the end of which I was confident we had the basis of agreement which could settle this dispute."

Mr Crow said there was an agreement to consult workers over a revised pay offer, and an agreement for Acas to study disciplinary issues, and an agreement on redundancies.

At 6pm last night, an hour before the strike was due to start, Mr Crow said he signed a document he believed would lead to the action being called off.

He said: "Then astonishingly at 6.35pm, whilst awaiting the final typed agreement, we were told by management that they had made a phone call and that they could no longer abide by the agreement - they reneged before the ink was even dry. We were stunned that management could be so dishonest.

"I have no doubt that the phone call made was to the Transport Commissioner or City Hall who instructed the management team to pull the agreed deal. It is an absolute disgrace that we should reach an agreement in good faith, only for that agreement to be sabotaged.

"Either your senior management are completely dishonest or have no authority to negotiate. Or it is the case that you have personally intervened to scupper the deal in the belief that a confrontation with Tube workers will serve your political agenda."

Transport Commissioner Peter Hendy described the claims as "utter nonsense", adding: "We called on the RMT leadership to attend Acas yesterday, but, despite us making progress on all issues, they decided to strike, rather than continue to talk beyond their own self-imposed deadline.

"The RMT leadership says we were close to a deal. If that is the case, then they should call off the strike, return to talks and resolve this issue without any more disruption to Londoners.

"We remain ready for talks at any time and anywhere, including further talks at Acas."

LU said trains ran on most lines today despite the strike.