Warning over Boxing Day Tube strike plan

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The Independent Online

Business leaders today warned that a planned strike by London Underground drivers on Boxing Day could be a "major blow" for retailers on one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

Members of Aslef are planning a 24-hour walkout on Sunday in a row over bank holiday pay, claiming three extra days' pay and a day off in lieu.

LU said the union had previously signed up to an agreement which covered bank holiday pay arrangements.

The British Retail Consortium said Boxing Day has grown in importance with more stores now launching their post-Christmas sales on that day.

Director General Stephen Robertson said: "This could be a major blow for London's retailers and their customers on what's now one of their most important days of the year. Around 380,000 jobs directly depend on a successful retailing sector in the capital.

"Retailers in London need a strong start to the post-Christmas sales. On the back of disruption caused by severe winter weather and student protests, they now face a difficult time in 2011 as VAT goes up and public sector cuts begin to take effect.

"Everyone involved in the Tube drivers' dispute needs to recognise the importance of London retailing and the damage disruption on this scale will cause."

Baroness Jo Valentine, Chief Executive of business group London First, said: "It's not too late to bring seasonal good tidings to London by sorting out this unnecessary dispute. Boxing Day is one of the most important trading days for West End retailers and is more important than ever this year, as bargain hunters seek to beat January's VAT rise.

"Disruption caused by strikes is never welcome, but why taint London's reputation in this way by jeopardising shopworker jobs and ruining the plans of hundreds of thousands of visiting shoppers?"