London Tube Workers To Hold Strike Ballot Over Pay

(Reuters) – LONDON UNDERGROUND WORKERS are to vote on whether to strike in a long-running dispute over pay, their union said today.

Bob Crow, head of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) Union, said his members deserved a bigger pay rise to reflect ‘the real costs of living and working in an expensive city like London.’

The union has rejected the current offer of a pay rise of 1.5% this year followed by an inflation plus 0.5% increase from next April.

‘We have no option but to put the issue back out to our members and to begin the process of balloting for further action across London Underground,’ Crow said in a statement. No timetable for the vote and possible action has been announced.

The demand for a pay rise goes against Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s repeated calls for restraint in public sector wage deals to help rebalance the public finances.

The public deficit is forecast to reach £175 billion this year, more than 12% of gross domestic product.

Conservative Shadow Chancellor George Osborne said last week he would seek a one-year public sector pay freeze from 2011 if the Tories win the next election. London Underground (LU) said its pay offer was a ‘very fair and final’ one in tough economic times.

‘Londoners will find another RMT leadership strike threat hard to take, especially when we are offering a two-year above inflation pay offer,’ said LU’s Managing Director Richard Parry.

‘Another strike will achieve nothing except lose staff more pay and cause unnecessary frustration and disruption to Londoners.’

A two-day strike by RMT members in June caused widespread disruption on the Tube network, which carries more than 3 million passengers each day.