Tube workers vote for strike action

London Underground workers are to stage three one-day strikes next month in a dispute over safety which will cripple Tube services in the capital.

They will take the action on three successive Mondays - February 5, 12 and 19 - after voting heavily in favour of walkouts.

Members of the Rail Maritime and Transport union voted by 9-1, while the drivers' union Aslef said its members were 3-1 in favour of industrial action.

Mick Rix, general secretary of Aslef, said workers would be striking "on behalf of the public" unless LU addressed concerns over safety under controversial plans for a public private partnership to run the Tube.

"Safety must come first and be seen to come first," he said.

Bob Crow, assistant general secretary of the RMT, said: "Our members have said loud and clear that they are not prepared to sit back and see London Underground go the way of the national rail network, with all the disastrous consequences that has had for passengers and employees alike."

Andy Gilchrist, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said firefighters shared the concerns over safety.

More than three million people travel on the Tube each day and managers are expected to draw up emergency plans to run as many trains as possible when the strikes go ahead.

London Underground has announced plans to ballot people who travel on the Tube to ask their views on the strikes.

"We are giving those who don't normally get a vote a chance to have their say," said a spokesman.

The unions are demanding a joint working party to investigate safety. They are seeking assurances of no compulsory redundancies if the network is "broken up".

London's Mayor Ken Livingstone has publicly backed the union campaign and has pledged to join strikers on the picket line if industrial action goes ahead.

Liberal Democrat member of Transport for London Susan Kramer condemned Mr Livingstone's support for the strike.

She said: "It is time for Ken Livingstone to stop acting like a firebrand and start acting like a statesman. He should be seeking an alternative to the PPP, not chasing headlines.

"Londoners have suffered enough. Safety must be the top priority. The unions must know that striking will damage the negotiations, not help them."

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