London Underground staff balloted on strike action

Almost 6,500 London Underground staff are to be balloted†on strike action in an ongoing pay dispute.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) says will vote over the†failure to pay a 4% rise that they were expecting to have been settled by 1 April 2006.

The union executive is calling on members to vote decisively for action, after it has apparently been trying to get the London Underground to enter meaningful negotiations without success.

Bob Crow, RMT general secretary, said: "We have spent months trying to get London Underground to negotiate sensibly with us, but our members have still not received a pay increase on 1 April last year. We were asked to submit our pay claim in good time and we did so, but LUL did not enter talks at all until after last April’s anniversary dates."

A London Underground spokesperson, however, said that it has made a three-year final offer for improved pay and conditions. "London Underground has made a very fair pay offer to all trade unions. It is a three-year deal with an above inflation pay rise in each year, plus a cash bonus for all staff if customer satisfaction targets are met or exceeded.

"We have made clear from the start of negotiations that we need agreement to implement a later- running Tube on Friday and Saturday nights, which is overwhelmingly backed by Londoners."

But a†spokesperson for the RMT has†dubbed the proposed†deal as ‘unacceptable’ and said that the RMT had made it clear that a multi-year deal and conditions unrelated to pay would not be accepted. The union†also insists that London Underground only started negotiating after April.

"[LUL]have since spent the best part of 10 months stonewalling, insisting on a multi-year deal and attempting to link the pay talks with entirely unrelated issues. We could not even win from them a pledge not to impose a new draconian disciplinary and attendance policies over the course of any long-term deal," said Crow.

He added that the RMT had made it apparent to London Underground that if it had not†paid the 4% by today, a ballot for strike action would ensue. "LUL can avoid industrial action by paying the increase that is due to our members, but they should understand that RMT members are prepared to defend the gains they have made in recent years."

In response to claims that the London Underground has refused to pay the 4% pay increase this year, a spokesperson said: "We have not refused to pay an increase this year. We have made a very fair three-year offer which has been on the table for a number of months. As soon as it is accepted, RMT members will be entitled to their pay increase for this year. We believe the RMT should put this offer to their members in a vote, rather than ballot for strike action."