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London Underground Strikes to Proceed as Talks Fail

Sept. 2 (Bloomberg) -- London Underground railway workers will go ahead with strikes starting next week, after talks on safety and staffing levels broke down, the RMT union said.

A 24-hour strike against 800 planned job cuts will begin at 5 p.m. on Sept. 6. Maintenance and engineering workers will go on strike first, followed four hours later by drivers, signalers and station workers, the RMT said in an e-mailed statement today. More stoppages are scheduled for the same times on Oct. 3 and on Nov. 2 and 28. The strikes involving 10,000 employees will disrupt travel for the 3.5 million people who use the subway or Tube each working day.

“London Underground management knew very well that meaningful talks could not proceed while the threat of cuts to safety and safe staffing levels hung over our members heads -- their failure to remove that threat sabotaged any prospect of making progress,” RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said in the statement.

The unions called the strikes over plans to eliminate jobs and restrict opening hours for ticket offices. Crow has said the cuts are unacceptable and will also undermine safety by creating a “muggers’ paradise” at understaffed stations.

The unions have imposed “unreasonable” conditions on the talks that they knew would render making constructive discussions “impossible,” London Underground said in a separate statement today.

Separate Dispute

“London Underground remains willing as ever to meet and take part in constructive discussions at any time without setting any preconditions,” London Underground’s Chief Operating Officer Howard Collins said. “We urge the RMT and TSSA leadership to drop their preconditions so that meaningful discussions can take place.”

In a separate dispute over pay and conditions, almost 200 RMT rail workers in London Underground’s Jubilee and Northern line depots will strike for 24 hours starting at 7 p.m. on Sept. 5, the union said in a separate statement today. More actions are scheduled for the same times on Oct. 2 and Nov. 1 and 27.

Only one in every 20 Tube journeys now involves a visit to a ticket office after booth sales fell 28 percent over the past four years, according to London Underground. The decline has been spurred by the introduction of Oyster travel cards, which open gates automatically after being charged with credit.

To contact the reporters on this story: Chris Kay in London at ckay5@bloomberg.net; Chris Spillane in London at cspillane3@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Colin Keatinge at ckeatinge@bloomberg.net

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