LONDON (Reuters) - Workers on London’s underground rail network were due to start a 24-hour strike Tuesday evening, the third walk-out since September in a dispute over planned job cuts.
Workers are protesting against London Underground’s plan to eliminate 800 jobs through the reduction of station staffing and opening hours at some ticket offices.
The railway, which opened in 1863, carries some 3 million passengers daily and business lobbies have said the stoppages cost the capital up to 50 million pounds per day.
There are concerns that industrial unrest is building in Britain as deep spending cuts from the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, aimed at curbing a record peacetime budget deficit, start to bite.
London firefighters walked off the job Monday over contract disputes and are set to strike again Friday evening, Guy Fawkes Night, when many people will build bonfires and set off firecrackers to celebrate the failure of a plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605.
Governments have been quick to implement austerity measures to help recover from the global recession and workers have mostly failed in their attempts to get them to lessen the cuts.
Protests by French workers have fizzled out as President Nicolas Sarkozy won parliament’s final approval to raise the minimum and full-pension retirement ages.
In London, the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) and Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) said more than 11,000 of their members will stop working Tuesday evening.
An RMT spokesman said talks have continued with London Underground but no significant progress has been made. RMT has said it wants the job cuts off the negotiating table.
The RMT spokesman said safety was an issue as cutting the jobs would leave some stations unstaffed on a regular basis, making them vulnerable if there was a major incident.
“It is a system in crisis at the moment. It is lurching from one chaotic episode to the next,” he said.
London Underground said in a statement Monday the staffing changes would have no impact on the network’s safety standards. It said there would be no compulsory redundancies, every station with a ticket office would keep it and stations would continue to be staffed.
The reputation of London Underground, the oldest underground system in the world, has taken a beating in recent weeks.
There have been regular stoppages and delays during rush hour caused by signal and train failures, including several occasions when passengers have had to walk through tunnels after their trains became stranded, and on weekends there are service suspensions so upgrading work can be done for the 2012 Olympics.