New militant group threatens capital with strike chaos

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The Independent Online

A new militant alliance among public sector workers in London is threatening a wave of co-ordinated industrial action in the capital. Disruption begins next week when Royal Mail deliveries and key council services throughout London will be affected.

Next Thursday, tens of thousands of Post Office employees belonging to the Communication Workers' Union (CWU) and Unison members at local authorities are to walk out for 24 hours in an attempt to win £4,000 in London allowances.

Both unions are members of the newly formed London Public Sector Alliance, established to co-ordinate industrial action to win better terms and conditions. Other members are the RMT rail union, the Fire Brigades Union, the National Union of Teachers and Natfhe, the lecturers' union.

The alliance has been formed amid signs of growing unrest in the state sector. The RMT is threatening Metronet and Tubelines, the two private consortia controlling the infrastructure at London Underground, with industrial action for allegedly reneging on a deal over wages.

While employees of the state-owned London Underground, which still runs the trains, have been granted back pay to April 2002, the two consortia have refused to do so.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT, is lodging a case with an employment tribunal, claiming the private companies have acted unlawfully by refusing to honour a deal agreed by the mayor Ken Livingstone which ended industrial action last year. Mr Crow said he reserves the right to order a strike ballot among 6,500 workers.

Leaders of firefighters, teachers and lecturers are involved in campaigns to increase London allowances which could also result in industrial action. Next Thursday's stoppage by postal workers, is expected to cause massive disruption to collections and deliveries. The Royal Mail said it took five days to clear the backlog from the first 24-hour strike last week and it cost them up to £10m.

Dave Ward, deputy general secretary of the CWU, said his union had chosen the same day as the council workers' strike to raise the issue of low pay across the public sector in the capital. "All we are looking for is a fair deal. Prices of accommodation, transport, food and entertainment are vastly higher in the capital, and our members need levels of London allowances that reflect that position. Otherwise, we are accepting that our London members should have a lower standard of living than other postal workers.

Mr Ward said the strike was motivated "not by greedy London, but by needy London". Royal Mail has warned the union that industrial action will fail to elicit any more money and cause further financial harm. The CWU is seeking a London weighting allowance of £4,000 a year. The Royal Mail has offered £300, which will increase the outer London allowance to £2,667 and the inner London payment to £3,784.

Geoff Martin, London convenor for Unison and its representative on the alliance committee, said tens of thousands of council employees from managers in finance departments to library staff would be on strike next week.

Tube strike threat over squash row

London Underground workers are being urged to vote for industrial action over the dismissal of a union activist seen playing squash while on sick leave with an ankle injury.

Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT rail union accused management of "scraping the barrel" in an attempt to find an excuse to sack the employee, a driver.

London Underground said "surveillance" had been ordered in the light of the driver's continued failure to attend work.