Underground strike threats spread

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The Independent Online

Labour Editor

Threats of industrial action spread at London Underground yesterday while British Rail conceded that only a handful of trains would run today as drivers staged the second of six 24-hour stoppages.

Engineering workers on the Tube system joined station staff and other support grades in voting to take industrial action. A strike ballot among London Underground drivers is also expected tomorrow to deliver an overwhelming mandate for stoppages in protest at a 2.75 per cent pay offer. Tube trains will operate normally today, but on 27 July, Underground employees plan to strike at the same time as BR drivers.

Management said the whole of the Underground network would be brought to a standstill by the walkouts, which would cost about pounds 1.5m in lost revenue. About two million passengers use the Tube every day.

A ballot result at London Underground yesterday showed that maintenance engineers in the RMT transport union had voted by nearly four to one to strike in support of a claim for a jobs guarantee until 2000.

Tube management is planning to sell off parts of the technical support departments and their staff to the private sector and the engineers believe many of them will be made redundant.

A spokesman for London Underground expressed the company's disappointment that engineers had voted to take action, but pointed out that there was only a 40 per cent turnout in the ballot.

At British Rail, management was only able to timetable one additional service today - between GLASGOW AND AYR - compared with the tiny number that ran last Friday. Hopes of any settlement of the BR dispute seemed remote yesterday as Aslef, the train drivers' union, insisted on an increase above the 3.4 per cent inflation rate and management refused to budge from the 3 per cent offer.

Congestion on the roads is expected to be worse than last Friday as more commuters try to get to work.