LONDON May 5 Union leaders and London transport
chiefs were holding talks on Monday in a final attempt to avert
a three-day strike by underground train staff that would spell
travel misery for millions of commuters for the second week
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union have
already staged a 48-hour stoppage in the capital in a dispute
over ticket office closures and job cuts.
That strike caused widespread transport disruption last week
for people trying to get to and from work, costing firms a
fortune in lost working hours and productivity.
Talks were being held between the RMT and Transport for
London (TfL), which runs the city's transport network, at the
Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) just hours
before the 72-hour strike was due to start on Monday evening.
"In view of the impending three-day strike action by RMT
members, Acas has invited the Chief Operating Officer of London
Underground and the acting General Secretary of RMT to attend a
meeting at our offices," an Acas spokesman said in a statement.
The dispute centres on TfL's restructuring plans, which it
says could save 50 million pounds ($84 million) a year, but the
RMT says will lead to the closure of 250 ticket offices and the
loss of 950 jobs.
TfL says there will be no compulsory redundancies, and
argues that fewer than 3 percent of journeys on the 151-year-old
Tube network now involve the use of ticket offices as most
passengers have electronic ticket cards.
However, the RMT says safety and service quality will
suffer. Discussions broke down on Friday with each side accusing
the other of intransigence.
Some 3 million commuters use London's "Tube" network daily,
and, despite services running on most lines and extra bus
services during last week's walkout, commuters posted pictures
on the Internet of overcrowded streets and platforms that showed
them cramming onto packed buses and trains.
The Federation of Small Businesses estimated that a two-day
strike by Tube workers in February cost small businesses, which
make up about 99 percent of London companies, about 600 million
pounds in lost working hours, business and productivity.
(Editing by John Stonestreet)