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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 December 2005, 16:48 GMT
Hopes fade for Tube strike talks
Brixton Tube station
The Tube was due to run all night on New Year's Eve
Talks to avert a Tube strike on New Year's Eve look unlikely to take place.

Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union officials and Underground (LU) bosses were due to meet with the conciliation service Acas on Thursday.

But the union said it was not prepared to enter talks unless LU agreed to postpone the introduction of new rotas at the centre of the dispute.

The 24-hour walkout by about 4,000 workers begins at noon. Another stoppage is planned for 8 January.

Without a deal, New Year celebration plans for thousands of Londoners and visitors could be hit.

It is no good LU talking about three days of talks at Acas if... they will not move towards recognising our members' safety concerns
Bob Crow, RMT

London mayor Ken Livingstone had promised a free service from 2345 GMT on 31 December until 0430 GMT the next day, but the action will mean revellers will have to rely on night buses, late-running trains and cars.

Informal telephone talks broke down on Wednesday but it was hoped negotiation at Acas might result in a deal being agreed.

But the RMT's general secretary Bob Crow said: "As a gesture of goodwill we offered to suspend our strike action if the company responded by suspending the introduction of new rosters that have not been safety validated.

"It is no good LU talking about three days of talks at Acas if they have already made it clear that they will not move towards recognising our members' safety concerns - that would simply have left Londoners and our members high and dry."

LU's chief operating officer Mike Brown said: "Today the RMT leadership refused to join us in talks at Acas.

No job cuts

"Instead they gave us an ultimatum that we must suspend the agreement for a shorter working week which they agreed by a 30 to one majority more than a year ago.

"If we did that it would potentially compromise holiday arrangements for thousands of station staff and would unravel the whole agreement."

"They [the RMT] are getting a 35 hour week with no loss of pay and no reduction in staffing.
London mayor Ken Livingstone

Mr Livingstone said he "regretted" the RMT's decision not to attend the Acas talks.

He added: "A strike will do nothing other than spoil a great night out for hundreds of thousands of Londoners

"They [the RMT] are getting a 35 hour week with no loss of pay and no reduction in staffing.

They have a commitment from TfL that there will be no overall cut in station staff and they know perfectly well that no new rosters will be introduced which have not been fully validated for safety."

RMT union members voted five to one to strike in a dispute over staffing levels.

They fear LU plans, which include closing ticket offices, could lead to job losses and compromise safety.

LU said there will be no job cuts, merely the redeployment of staff to make them more visible at stations.

Meanwhile Bob Bone, organiser of London's New Year's Day parade, fears even if trains start running again at noon on 1 January, it might be too late for his event which involves thousands of performers and attracted 480,000 spectators this year.




SEE ALSO:
Tube walkout 'threatens parade'
28 Dec 05 |  London


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