Tube Drivers Threaten to Strike over Christmas

Union holds ballot over Boxing Day walkout

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Aslef, the train drivers' union

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Members of the Aslef trade union are threatening to strike over Christmas.

2,200 tube drivers - over half of London Underground's total of 3,200 drivers - belong to Aslef, which is balloting members to seek their support for industrial action on Boxing Day.

The drivers are demanding triple pay and a day in lieu for working on Boxing Day.

Speaking as the "majority union for the grade", Aslef has released a statement which says: "The union’s executive was told that negotiators with the company had failed to reach an agreement on the terms of Boxing Day working and it has now informed the company that it intends to ballot its members employed by LUL for strike action.

" The result of the ballot will be announced on December 14.

" The union wants all Boxing Day working to be voluntary. ‘That is what we are seeking from the company,’ says union executive committee member Terry Wilkinson.

" However, it is unlikely that this would attract many volunteers unless there was an incentive. ‘Something like triple time and a day in lieu would, I am sure, ensure there were takers,’ Terry says. "

If the strike goes ahead, it will be a repeat of last year, when Aslef drivers walked out after the failure of a High Court bid by London Underground prevent it.

Londoners are already facing a month of misery on the tubes, with an extensive programme of closures planned over the festive season.

Business leaders have condemned Aslef's action, with Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, urging it to withdraw the threat and  Baroness Valentine, chief executive of London First, accusing it of holding London to ransom and saying: "The retail trade is still suffering badly and will be counting on the traditional uplift from Boxing Day."

Train drivers, who currently earn a basic salary ot £45,545 have just won a four-year pay deal that will put them on £52,000 basic pay by 2015, and they will also receive up to £1,200 extra for working during the Olympic Games.

The wider dispute concerns a 1996 agreement which gave drivers a pay rise in return for changes to working conditions which include working some bank holidays.

Howard Collins, LU's chief operating officer, said: "It would be quite wrong for the Aslef leadership to ballot for strike action while we are engaged in continuing discussions on this issue. LU has a long-standing agreement with all its trade unions which cover staff working arrangements on bank holidays, and Boxing Day is included in that agreement.

"However, we have shown good faith in reviewing Boxing Day services so that staffing requirements are lower than when Aslef raised this matter last year, and Aslef should do the same."

The RMT union is not involved in the dispute, but members could refuse to cross Aslef picket lines.

November 15, 2011