UK

Conservatives Urge Curbs On Tube Strikes, As New Industrial Action Looms

15/04/2013 07:41 BST | Updated 15/04/2013 14:30 BST

London Underground train drivers are to be balloted for industrial action in a row over working conditions - as Conservative politicians called for curbs on Tube strikes.

A report published by the Tory group on the London Assembly said compulsory mediation should be introduced to avoid disruptive action.

A survey of almost 300 Londoners to help launch the report found that half were in favour of some form of ban on Tube strikes.

The report said that Tube strikes cost the economy £48 million a day, estimating that industrial action between 2005 and 2009 cost £1 billion.

The Conservatives said that as well as banning strikes and replacing the right to strike with binding arbitration, a minimum of 50% plus one of all eligible union members should vote in favour of action before arbitration kicks in.

Richard Tracey, the party's transport spokesman on the assembly, said: "For too long London's Tube unions have been holding the travelling public hostage, demanding ever greater pay deals and calling strikes at the drop of a hat.

"We need to urgently redress this imbalance.

"Our research shows six in 10 Londoners feel it is too easy for underground staff to go on strike."

The Rail Maritime and Transport union said it was balloting drivers on the Piccadilly Line in a dispute over working conditions and agreements.

General secretary Bob Crow said of the strike ban call: "One of the first things fascist dictators like Hitler, Mussolini and Pinochet did when they seized power was to ban transport workers from taking strike action so the Tory group on the London Assembly find themselves in some high profile company on this one.

"This crowd have obviously over-dosed on their post-Thatcher adulation and are looking to ramp up the anti-union rhetoric in advance of the publicly financed funeral on Wednesday.

"Of course, banning the fundamental human right to withdraw your labour, a right that distinguishes a free workforce from forced labour, is all the rage on the far right and anyone stupid enough to try and embark on such a policy is doomed to failure."