Sales shoppers undeterred by London tube strike

26th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Shoppers flocked to the traditional Boxing Day sales in London on Sunday, undeterred in their search for a bargain by a strike on the subway system that caused most train services to be suspended.

Oxford Street, the main shopping artery in the capital, was heaving with shoppers by lunchtime, although some people had camped overnight outside Selfridges department store to ensure they were first in the queue.

Similar scenes played out across Britain as retailers slashed their prices by up to 75 percent, many of them hoping to make up for slow trading earlier in the month caused by snow and cold weather.

Bargain-hunters in London were forced to drive or get the bus to the shops as Underground drivers went on a 24-hour strike in a dispute over holiday pay.

Members of the Aslef trade union voted to walk out after transport chiefs refused their demand for triple pay and a day off for working on December 26 -- the day after Christmas being a national holiday in Britain.

The strike caused the part or full suspension of every Tube line, meaning that the train network will have effectively been closed for two days -- it was also shut Saturday for Christmas.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said Aslef's demands were "monstrous" and accused the union of breaking a long-standing agreement on working hours that included conditions for national holidays.

But union official Steve Grant said they had been trying to discuss the issue for two years, insisting that managers "want to increase service levels to meet demand. We're not against it, we're against working it for flat time."

The walkout follows a series of Tube strikes by members of the RMT union in recent months over plans to axe 800 jobs.

Hoards of shoppers were undeterred by the disruption, however, with a hardy few even beginning queuing outside Selfridges from 11:00 pm on Christmas Day. By 4:00 am Sunday there were about 60 people waiting, the store said.

Selfridges is expecting 80,000 people to pass through its doors on Oxford Street, after offering discounts of up to 75 percent.

Long queues also formed outside shops in other cities across Britain, and retailers said they expected Monday -- which is also a national holiday -- to be equally busy.

© 2010 AFP

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