(Updates with RMT confirmation)
LONDON, Feb 11 (Reuters) - A planned 48-hour strike this week by staff on London’s underground rail network which threatened to bring travel misery for millions has been suspended to allow further talks, unions said on Tuesday.
Similar action last week over threats to jobs from the planned closure of manned ticket offices caused chaos on the capital’s roads and was condemned by Prime Minister David Cameron as “shameful.”
The Rail, Maritime and Transport workers union (RMT) and the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) said they had now agreed to postpone their strike action following talks with managers over modernisation plans.
“I‘m pleased the action has been suspended and we have got to where we can have negotiations without a gun pointed to our head,” Bob Crow, the RMT general secretary told Reuters.
The unions and London Underground bosses have been holding talks at the conciliation service ACAS and Crow said they had received proposals to halt proposed job cuts, which allowed them to call off industrial action for the time being.
However, Crow warned that the strike could be re-instated if further discussions failed.
“It is unfortunate that we were forced and provoked into a dispute that we never wanted and we are now in a position to move on with the clear understanding that our action is suspended but if there is any further attempt to impose change from above the action will go back on,” he said.
Cameron said last week he unreservedly condemned the strike and London mayor Boris Johnson has accused Crow of holding the city to ransom over a stoppage he has called “completely unnecessary and wrong.”
Some three million people use the Tube system most days and the strike last week led to long journeys for many commuters. Those who avoided packed buses attempted to walk, run or cycle to work through gale-force winds.
The London Chamber of Commerce said repeated strike action could hurt London’s image as a modern, efficient city and affect long-term investment prospects.
It said that based on figures from previous strikes in 2010, the two 48-hour stoppages could have cost Britain’s financial capital over 200 million pounds ($325 million).
“We welcome the news that the proposed industrial action has been withdrawn,” said John Woods, ACAS Deputy Chief Conciliator,
“We want to thank all the parties involved for their hard work and commitment over 10 days of intensive talks.” (Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison)