London braced for travel disruption as underground rail workers strike

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 27, 2014 3:41 PM

LONDON (Reuters) - Millions of commuters face transport chaos this week as workers on the London Underground rail network plan to hold a two-day strike in a dispute over planned job cuts.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers' union (RMT) are due to stage a 48-hour walkout beginning at 2000 GMT on April 28 after talks aimed at resolving the row over plans to close manned ticket offices broke down earlier this month.

Fresh talks will be held on Monday in a last ditch effort to prevent the strike going ahead, a spokesman for Transport for London (TfL) said on Sunday.

A similar strike in February brought the network, used by some three million people most days, to a virtual standstill.

A second planned February walkout was averted to allow talks to take place.

The strike action follows the March 11 death of RMT leader Bob Crow, whose success in extracting concessions from employers through hard talk and industrial disruption has set the mould for those vying to replace him, trade union experts say.

Another three-day strike has been called from May 5.

TfL, which argues that less than three percent of journeys on the 151-year-old tube network now involve passengers using ticket offices, has said it will run a limited service on some lines, with some stations closed. Extra bus and river boat services will also be added.

"A lot of people are going to be late," said 25-year-old architect Stefan Wilson, who is able to walk to work in the City of London from his home in Wapping.

"If you work in an office job it will have less impact. It is going to be worst for people like nurses who cannot do their job from home."

SAFETY FEARS

TfL says its modernisation plans, including cutting 953 station jobs, can be achieved without compulsory redundancies or any loss of pay to workers and with the promise stations would remain staffed at all times.

The union says the cuts risk safety and would damage quality of service, and has blamed rail management for the failure of eight weeks of talks. It said it hoped the strikes would lead them to engage in "meaningful and serious talks".

British Prime Minister David Cameron last week called the strike "unjustified and unacceptable", saying it would hit millions of families and cause chaos for businesses.

Business lobbies have said previous tube strikes have cost London's economy up to 50 million pounds ($84 million) a day.

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Lynne O'Donnell and Sonya Hepinstall)