Hundreds of London underground maintenance engineers begin a 72-hour strike from 4pm this afternoon


Photo: Jonathan Warren

Hundreds of London underground maintenance engineers begin a 72-hour strike this afternoon, in a dispute which the RMT says may be linked to what it calls a secret plan to re-privatise the essential work and ‘rob London blind’.

RMT members at the company, Tube Lines, carry out upgrading and maintenance work on the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines, covering more than 200 miles of track, 255 trains as well as the lifts and escalators at scores of stations.

The union is seeking to harmonise the pensions and other benefits for the maintenance staff with other workers on the underground.

Tube Lines was brought back into the ownership of the transport agency TfL in 2010, after the collapse of the other major maintenance contractor, Metronet and after TfL agreed to buy up a majority of Tube Lines shares at a cost of £310m.

That deal wound up a £30bn Public-Private Partnership which saw large sections of the Tube sold off to subsidiaries on 30-year leases.

However, RMT now believes the company’s refusal to accept harmonisation proposals could be linked to a secret plan to re-privatise maintenance work.

Former Metronet staff have been allowed to join the TfL pension scheme and also receive benefits such as free travel within London and concessions on other public transport services.

General secretary Bob Crow said: “The inexplicable refusal of London Underground to agree to equalise pensions and benefits rights for our maintenance members is deeply suspect and points clearly to a secret plan to reprivatise this work in an action replay of the PPP disaster.

“We understand there are already vulture companies hovering in the wings for another shot at robbing London blind through PPP2 and reducing the network to chaos.

“Instead of playing these political and ideological games with our members pensions and benefits tube bosses should be getting round the table and resolving this straightforward dispute.”

RMT has around 1,000 members within Tube Lines.

Direct negotiations and talks under the auspices of the conciliation service, Acas, have so far failed to resolve the dispute.

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