London Tube drivers strike over public holiday pay
London Underground drivers on Monday walked out in a row over pay, threatening disruption for shoppers at the start of the post-Christmas sales and football fans hoping to catch a festive fixture.
Members of train drivers' union ASLEF voted overwhelmingly to hold a 24-hour strike on Boxing Day and on three more dates in the coming weeks in a move business chiefs warned could hit ailing retailers.
The action was prompted by a refusal to pay drivers on the London Underground train network extra for working on Boxing Day, a public holiday, said the union.
"The company is currently offering no additional payments for working on Boxing Day," said a union statement issued when the action was announced last week.
In anticipation of the action, Arsenal postponed their Boxing Day Premier League fixture with Wolves by 24 hours.
Transport for London hoped to run a reduced service and announced it would lay on extra buses in busy areas.
The union plans three more 24-hour strikes on January 16, February 3 and February 13 over the same issues.
ASLEF said it balloted 2,200 drivers on the Underground network, known as the Tube, and they returned a 92.3 percent vote in favour of action.
Tube drivers also walked out on Boxing Day last year, crippling the Underground but failing to deter shoppers who flocked to the traditional sales.
The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry accused the union of holding the British capital and its businesses "to ransom through yet more Tube strikes".
"Retailers have already had one of their toughest years with recent sales figures showing a decline year-on-year fuelled by poor consumer confidence, rising unemployment and mild weather", said the body's chief executive, Colin Stanbridge.
Train operator London Underground also attacked the union, saying it had made an "outrageous" demand for triple pay and an extra day off for working Boxing Day which went against existing agreements.
© 2011 AFP