Tube strike 'practice for Olympics'
Firms should use this week's strike by London Underground workers to test any flexible working plans they have for the Olympic Games, a specialist has suggested.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) who maintain and upgrade the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines and deal with emergencies across the network, will walk out at 4pm on Tuesday until the same time on Friday in a row over pensions.
Michael Stephens, of video conferencing firm LifeSize, said: "This week's Tube strikes will likely inconvenience thousands of commuters and employers. However, it also presents businesses with the perfect opportunity to test-drive their proposed flexible working policies ahead of the Olympics.
"The Olympics will create the most difficult travelling environment London has ever seen. As with this week's strikes, commuters are going to have to go through an ordeal just to make it into work. Therefore, offering staff a flexible working option is an obvious answer."
Stephens warned that the strikes could cost businesses millions of pounds. The union said the action will disrupt services across the system, but LU denied this, maintaining there would not be any significant impact.
RMT 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 (public private partnership) 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."
Jon Lamonte, Tube Lines' chief executive, said: "Since becoming part of Transport for London, all Tube Lines' employees have kept their existing terms and conditions of employment.
"The RMT's ballot showed that less than 44% of its members voted in favour of strike action. We urge the RMT leadership to return to discussions, and we remain ready to continue such discussions at any time to try and avert the strike. Should this industrial action go ahead, we expect it to have no significant effect on Tube services."
London Underground managing director Mike Brown said: "We are committed to proper discussions on the future of Tube Lines and that includes all our staff. Since Tube Lines transferred to TfL in June 2010, we have been fully focused on the upgrade of the Jubilee line, which the PPP totally failed to deliver. It has now been delivered, with faster, more frequent services for Tube customers."