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Union sets deadline over tube strike ballot

The threat of strikes on London Underground increased today as union leaders said they would ballot for action unless plans to axe 800 jobs are withdrawn.

The Rail Maritime and Transport union said it will go ahead with a strike ballot unless LU withdraws its job cut plans by 5pm tomorrow.

The union claimed the company is already running stations unstaffed or with just one member of staff and said it will submit evidence to a meeting of LU's health and safety forum today.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: "We have already warned that the cuts that are being planned by Transport for London will turn Tube stations into a muggers' paradise and it now appears that the company is speeding up the process and is already leaving stations unstaffed or with just one member of staff without any consultation.

"That is a scandalous dereliction of duty and it is only a matter of time now before TfL and Mayor Boris Johnson have a tragedy on their hands as a result of their cavalier disregard for public safety.

"RMT has made it clear right from the outset that we will not sit idly by while the mayor and his transport officials drive down Tube staffing levels to dangerously low levels. If we have to ballot for action in the interests of Tube safety then that is exactly what we will do."

LU has pledged to work with the unions to achieve the cuts through voluntary redundancy and has denied that safety is being compromised.

A TfL spokesman said: "The safety of our customers and staff is paramount and London Underground remains committed to safe stations, staffed at all times.

"Our proposals for the future will ensure that stations are always staffed and all stations with a ticket office will continue to have one. We have also provided a guarantee to our staff and unions of no compulsory redundancies.

"On the very rare occasion when a member of staff becomes unavailable for a short period of time, due for example to illness for example, we will arrange for another member of staff to cover them where possible.

"All deep-level Tube stations have a minimum staffing requirement and the alternative would be to close the station, disrupting the journeys of our customers.

"We call on the RMT and all our trade unions to work with us, as we work to transform the Tube and deliver safe, more frequent and reliable Tube services in future, whilst ensuring that - like all public services - we offer value for money for farepayers and taxpayers."