Tube workers rapped for pre-Christmas strike threat

Thousands of London Underground workers are to be balloted for strikes in a long-running row over pay, threatening travel chaos on the Tube in the run-up to Christmas, it was announced today.

The Rail Maritime and Transport union said its members will vote in the next few weeks on whether to stage fresh walkouts, following industrial action in the summer.

The union held a 48-hour strike in June which badly disrupted services, leading to further talks over pay and other issues, held under the chairmanship of the conciliation service Acas.

The union announced today that its Tube reps had decided that a two-year pay offer of 1.5 per cent this year and RPI inflation plus 0.5 per cent from next April was "unacceptable".

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: "RMT representatives have worked long and hard to reach agreement on the issues of jobs and breaches of agreements but we have not been able to secure an acceptable offer on pay. In fact, LU management have failed to uphold a pledge that they offered Tube unions for Acas talks on this crucial issue.

"As a result, we have reached the point where we have no option but to put the issue back out to our members and to begin the process of balloting for further action across London Underground.

"We are looking for a pay offer that matches up to deals elsewhere in our industry and which reflects the real costs of living and working in an expensive city like London.

"RMT remains available for further talks with a view to moving this issue on and reaching a negotiated settlement acceptable to our members."

London Underground condemned the threat of strike action and urged the union's leadership to put the "fair and final" pay offer to their members.

Managing director Richard Parry said: "Londoners will find another RMT leadership strike threat hard to take, especially when we are offering a two-year above-inflation pay offer.

"Many Londoners have seen their pay frozen or have lost their jobs this year. In contrast, we are offering stability and security in one of the toughest economic climates in decades.

"Another strike will achieve nothing except lose staff more pay and cause unnecessary frustration and disruption to Londoners.

"We urge all of our unions to put this very fair and final offer to their members and urge all Tube staff to accept it."

A spokesman for business group London First said: "London commuters, whether working in the private or public sector, are worried about keeping their jobs and pensions through the downturn.

"How does the RMT leadership think that industrial action, leading to a loss of fare income to their employers, will help to secure their members' jobs? The RMT are engaged in politically motivated, economic vandalism."

LU said later that members of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association had voted overwhelmingly to accept the same pay offer.

Managing director Richard Parry said: "I welcome TSSA members' acceptance of our very fair pay offer, and their leadership's willingness to put the offer to those members."

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