Unions offer to lift threat of Christmas Tube strikes

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The Independent Online

Leaders of striking London Underground workers today offered to lift the threat of disruption over Christmas and the New Year as a war of words erupted over the effect of the latest walkout on jobs.

Union officials said they had no intention of disrupting festivities in the capital, although they warned this could change if Tube workers wanted to escalate the action.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, and Gerry Doherty, of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, angrily attacked Transport for London (TfL) over the level of Tube services running today.

The RMT dubbed TfL "Transport for Lies" and said it strongly disagreed with claims that 50% of trains were running.

Mr Doherty said: "It will not be my intention to disrupt festivities. I will not be recommending to my members that they strike over Christmas and the New Year."

The TSSA leader said the mood of his members was hardening as unions continued their protest against plans to axe 800 mainly ticket office jobs, with a further 1,200 cuts being lined up.

Mr Crow said support for today's strike was more solid than during two previous walkouts, adding: "The first casualty of war is the truth and it seems that TfL cannot tell the truth.

"We are urging the Mayor to get everyone together to see what common ground there is."

Talks will be held at the conciliation service Acas tomorrow, but only involving the RMT, with little sign that any progress is being made.

Mr Crow said: "LU wants us to stop the strikes while they go ahead with the job losses which is tantamount to madness."

The latest strike will end this evening but a fourth 24-hour walkout is due to start on the evening of November 28.

Mike Brown, managing director of London Underground, said: "We welcome any move by the leadership of the RMT and TSSA trade unions to end their completely unnecessary disruption of London, and they should also call off their threatened strike on 28/29 November.

"We remain ready for constructive talks at any time, and reiterate that the necessary changes we propose come with a cast iron guarantee of no compulsory redundancies and no loss of earnings. All stations will continue to be staffed and all stations with a ticket office will continue to have one.

"Today, we are running more Tube services and serving more stations than during the last two strikes. Nearly half of our services are running with all but one line being served and that is the Circle line, where almost every station is served by other lines. 75% of stations are being served, and we are keeping London moving."

Mr Crow countered: "Rather than resorting to bare-faced lies about what everyone out there in London knows to be the truth about the disruption to services, TfL should face up to the reality that today's action has actually been the most successful to date and get the message that the time has come to stop cutting and start talking."

Baroness Jo Valentine, of business group London First, said: "These tedious strikes are costing the economy millions and putting jobs at risk."

At Victoria station, commuters told of their frustration with the strike. Roger Mascall, 45, said: "It was terrible down there. It's the queuing to get into the station that's really bad. Some of the lines are totally crippled."

Mike Brown, managing director of London Underground, said: "Londoners will face some disruption getting home, but around 40% of Tube trains are running with 75% of stations being served and trains operating on all but one line.

"At points today we have managed to run nearly half of our services and have carried around half the number of customers.

"Despite the dire predictions of union leaders, the city has not been paralysed and people are able to get home. More services are operating than during the last strike, exceeding our earlier expectations.

"We are doing everything we can to keep as many Tube services as possible operating this evening, and we are also keeping Londoners moving by providing extra buses, river services and other alternatives."