Drivers on London Underground are to be balloted for strikes in an escalating row over the sacking of two colleagues, threatening disruption to Tube services just after the royal wedding, it was announced today.
The Rail Maritime and Transport union said almost 1,500 of its members will vote on whether to launch a campaign of industrial action, with the result due on April 27.
The union will have to give seven days notice of any walkouts, so any action could take place a few days after the April 29 royal wedding and May Bank Holiday.
The RMT claims that two its activists - Eamon Lynch and Arwyn Thomas - were sacked because of their trade union activities, a charge London Underground (LU) strongly denies.
The company also pointed out that the RMT is not the main union for Tube drivers.
Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT, said: "With the mayor and Transport for London announcing this week that they are increasing their cuts assault from £5 billion to £7.6 billion, it is clear that part of their strategy is to attack and victimise union representatives and activists in an effort to try and bulldoze through their de-staffing plans across London Underground.
"The attack on Eamon Lynch and Arwyn Thomas is the clearest-cut case of victimisation on the grounds of trade union activities that you will ever see and it's no wonder that the employment tribunal was swift to see through the management lies and grant both these members interim relief - an award which requires the strongest possible proof that their sackings were down to their union activities.
"Eamon and Arwyn have been victimised for fighting cuts to jobs and services that would turn the Tube into a death trap. We are balloting all of our drivers to send out the clearest signal that workers who stand up for Tube safety will get the full support of RMT members."
A TfL spokesman said: "It is absolute nonsense to suggest that these individuals were dismissed unfairly due to their union activities, and it is disgraceful that the RMT leadership is now choosing to ballot when both cases are still going through the employment tribunal process.
"The RMT leadership only achieved a very weak mandate for strike action in defence of these drivers. We know that the vast majority of drivers work safely with the utmost respect for passengers and their fellow workers at all times."
The dispute threatens the biggest outbreak of industrial unrest on the Tube since a series of strikes over job cuts last year, which caused travel chaos for commuters and other passengers.