The first of a series of London Underground Tube strikes began yesterday, just days before Wimbledon starts, with even more strikes planned for the coming weeks.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) began the strikes by walking out for 6 hours from 9pm, with longer strikes set to commence that will affect transport for the Wimbledon tournament.
The strikes are being held to bring about the reinstatement of driver Arwyn Thomas who is awaiting news on whether he has won his claim of unfair dismissal from an employment tribunal.
Cultural Secretary Jeremy Hunt has called the strikes nothing short of ‘blackmail’, and using disruption to Tennis fans as an ends to the RMT’s means.
Howard Collins, London Underground’s chief operating officer, feels that the strikes should be called off as a decision has not even been made in the tribunal process, and that the RMT agreed to such a process.
Bob Crow, leader of the RMT, responded by saying the decision to strike had been made with a legitimate ballot, and that workers have made it clear they wish to stand by their colleague. However reports suggest only 29% of the RMT’s tube driver members had voted in favour of a strike.
Crow believes the time has come for London Underground to do what he feels is right, and reinstate Arwyn Thomas before the next planned strike.
Thomas was sacked over alleged abusive behaviour towards his colleagues, although he vehemently denies the allegations. He is still receiving his £40,000 year a salary whilst he awaits the decision from the tribunal. British Number 1 pleads for Tennis fans
Andy Murray has voiced his concerns over the planned strikes, and has pleaded with union leaders and Tube bosses to hammer out a deal for the sake of the thousands of tennis fans who have already brought their ticket for the tournament.
Boris Johnson has also commented on the strikes, criticising the decision, saying it is ‘pointless’ and will only affect the enjoyment of people wanting to see the Wimbledon tournament.
It is understood that the RMT and London Underground have agreed to meet today at conciliation service Acas to try and resolve the issue.
If the talks fail, directors of Wimbledon insist the strikes should not affect crowd numbers, but admitted they could cause an inconvenience. They intend to supply additional shuttle services where needed if talks fall through, to ferry people from central London and overland stations to the courts. Tube strike dates and times
Between 21:01 BST on 19 June and 03:00 BST on 20 June
Between 21:01 BST on 27 June and 11:59 BST on 28 June
Between 12:00 BST on 29 June and 11:59 BST on 30 June
Between 12:00 BST and 21:00 BST on 1 July
By Ben Malkin
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