Monday, September 06, 2010

London Braces for Tube Strike

On Sunday night, 200 maintenance staff on two major Underground lines—the Jubilee and Northern—walked out and at 5 p.m. local time Monday around 10,000 staff of the Rail Maritime and Transport union, or RMT, and the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, or TSSA, are due to walk out for 24 hours as a sign of protest over the axing of 800 jobs at ticket offices. Separately, drivers, signalers and station staff are staging a 24-hour protest starting at 9 p.m. Monday night.

Transport for London, the transport authority, made a last-minute attempt to kick-start stalled talks over pay. "London Underground has called on the leaderships of the RMT and TSSA unions to call off their threatened strike action and return to talks to avert disruption to Londoners," a Transport for London statement said.

An RMT representative said the strikes were due to continue and warned of more strikes ahead. "We were categorically clear last week that we are prepared to talk but not with a gun in our head," he said. Two more 24-hour strikes are scheduled for October and November should both parties fail to reach an agreement.

TFL has vowed to "keep Londoners moving" by making available extra services to help commuters cope with the disruptions. Alternative modes of transport include 100 extra buses, escorted bike rides, marshaled taxi ranks, and an increased capacity of 10,000 more journeys on the river Thames.

Despite these alternatives, business leaders haven't hide their discontent over the industrial action. "Transport strikes are more than an irritation; they cost the economy millions of pounds in lost productivity," said Mark Heraghty, director of Virgin Media Business. His company, however, is exploring ways to get around the strike by encouraging employees to work from home. "Although some jobs clearly cannot be performed remotely, for most office workers it's a real possibility,"

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