RMT and Unite give strong indications of industrial action targeting London Olympics, unless agreement is reached on additional payments for Tube, bus drivers and admin staff during the games.

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Transport unions have given firm indications of possible industrial action targeting the London Olympics, unless agreement is reached on additional payments for staff during the games.

Unite has announced it is balloting London bus drivers at the end of March ‘with a view to potential industrial action’ and RMT is ‘working furiously’ to complete arrangements for a strike ballot among hundreds of administrative staff at Transport for London (TFL).

Unite says the 28,000 bus drivers are the only transport workers in London being denied an Olympic payment and asked to meet the companies in December.

The union’s deadline for negotiations now passed.

It had lodged a claim for a payment of £500 for the Olympics period, which it says employers have refused to discuss.

Elsewhere in the capital, industrial unrest is looming above and below the streets of the Olympic city in the run-up to the Games, which begin on 27th July.

Senior RMT reps meet tomorrow (16th March) amid widespread dissatisfaction that no agreement has been reached with London Underground on bonus payments for the union’s 18,000 members at LUL.

RMT officials say they are also urgently preparing to ballot hundreds of administrative staff in a separate dispute at Transport for London, which is demanding a freeze on annual leave during the Olympics and Paralympics.

Transport bosses publicly dismiss threats of Tube strikes during the Games, but transport remains a major concern for the Olympics organisers, having to deal with narrow streets clogged with traffic and a creaking underground system overcrowded during peak times.

They are desperate to avoid the stigma that has dogged the 1996 Atlanta Games after some athletes failed to arrive for their events on time because of transport woes.

Unite – which represents hundreds of engineering, electrical, power control and management workers on the London Tube – has rejected London Underground’s proposals for a £850 Olympics bonus because of what it calls ‘totally unacceptable conditions placed on the deal by management’.

Unions and LUL senior managers spent three days in talks at the conciliation service, ACAS last week.

However, Unite says full details of the company’s proposals only emerged in a letter this week.

It says LUL is demanding unlimited flexibility for an indefinite period after the Olympics as well as a condition that the union will give up its right to negotiate further changes.

John Morgan-Evans, Unite regional officer, said: “Unite was prepared to accept the deal, but the strings attached are totally unacceptable.

“It would be irresponsible to accept this deal as it would put our members’ health and safety at risk.

“Our members have been asked to agree to limitless changes to hours and place of work at short notice, not only during the games but for an undefined and potentially indefinite period after the games are over.

“We can’t give London Underground a free hand to make such changes outside of the normal processes of negotiation.

“This has never been just about reward. It is also about protecting the health and family life of our members.”

Deals have already been struck with workers on the overground, rail network and the key Olympic artery the Docklands Light Railway.

However, referring to the refusal by bus companies to discuss a drivers’ bonus, Peter Kavanagh, Unite regional secretary for London, said: “London’s bus operators are not taking their responsibility for transport during the Games seriously by refusing to even meet with Unite to discuss a reasonable Olympic payment.

“Bus workers will be central to the transport infrastructure during the Olympics and their importance should be recognised.”


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