London Tube Drivers End First Strike as Wimbledon Begins

London Underground drivers ended the first of four strikes early today to protest the dismissal of a union activist, coinciding with the start of the Wimbledon tennis tournament.

The strike began at 9 p.m. local time yesterday and was scheduled to end at 3 a.m. today, Geoff Martin, a spokesman for the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union, said by telephone last night. The plan involves all union members who drive trains on the city’s subway system, known as the Tube.

The British Broadcasting Corp. reported the six-hour strike had been carried out.

The walkout was the first of four strikes coinciding with the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, which run from today until July 3. The RMT represents 80,000 transportation workers.

Transport for London, the city agency that manages transportation services in the U.K. capital, expects “minimal disruption” to today’s services, an official, who declined to be identified because of the organization’s policy, said by telephone last night. Tube services will resume at 6 a.m. after the normal shutdown at midnight, the official said.

Additional walkouts are proposed for June 27, June 29 and July 1, according to the RMT. The union said on June 9 that it called the strikes over the firing of activist Arwyn Thomas. Transport for London said it was holding an employment tribunal for the dismissed driver and would reinstate him if the tribunal requested it.

Tennis Grand Slam

The union has said the strike schedule is connected to the expiration period on members’ authorization votes and isn’t aimed at the tennis Grand Slam tournament.

“We will see how the situation develops over the next few hours,” Martin said, commenting on the potential impact of the strike on morning services today. “We’re not making any predictions.”

The RMT is also targeting the Heathrow Express, a train service that shuttles travelers between central London’s Paddington station and Heathrow Airport, the nation’s largest. The union objects to a pay offer for Heathrow Express employees that it says would not keep pace with inflation.

On June 27, industrial action on the Tube starts at 9:01 p.m. and runs until 11:59 a.m. the next day. On June 29, it starts at noon and runs until 11:59 a.m. June 30, and the July 1 strike starts at noon and runs until 9 p.m. that night. The Heathrow Express strike runs from 9:15 a.m. June 26 to 9:14 a.m. June 27. The union is also asking members not to work overtime or extra hours for two other 24-hour periods.

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