Tube workers charged over drinks find

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The Independent Online

A number of tube track maintenance workers have been charged with gross misconduct following the discovery of over 100 empty beer cans and bottles of booze in a mess room, it was revealed today.

The 14 workers have been suspended by Metronet after the find at a London Underground station.

An empty brandy bottle, empty bottle of red wine and full cans of lager and cider were also found in a fridge, cooker and even in a loft above the room at Farringdon tube station.

Metronet, the private firm which maintains part of the tube network, said the room was used by maintenance workers to change into and out of work clothes.

"We are naturally treating this very seriously," said a Metronet spokesman. "We immediately suspended 14 people who normally have access to the room."

The 14 workers were tested for drugs and alcohol but they all returned negative.

The company, which said it had a zero tolerance policy towards drugs and alcohol, charged the 14 with gross misconduct.

Disciplinary hearings are expected over the next week.

Bobby Law, London regional organiser of the Rail Maritime and Transport union,

which represents the suspended workers, said: "No hard evidence whatsoever has

so far been produced against any of our members, and none of those involved has

tested positively for drugs or alcohol."

The mess room was used by many staff as well as outside contractors and contract cleaners, said the union.

"Under LU management, if there was any suspicion of drugs or alcohol, the individuals concerned would have been stood down from their normal duties and tested immediately.

"The fact that the people involved in this case were allowed to go to work before being tested, and that not everyone accused has been tested, underlines the lack of professionalism displayed by the private contractors now involved on LU."

Mr Law said he believed the case was an attempt by Metronet to deflect attention from the union's safety fears on the Tube, which could lead to industrial action in the next few weeks.

"Metronet now intend to set up a kangaroo court to dismiss these people, some with more than 20 years' experience, regardless of the lack of any evidence against them."