Underground staff walk out over sacking row

LONDON Underground staff have been striking at London Bridge in a dispute over a sacking at the station, and although they returned to work at 22.00 last night (8 May) staff will not enforce fares at the station until further notice, by refusing to challenge passengers or service ticket machines.

There are also warnings that the disruption could spread elsewhere on the system.

The industrial action by the RMT follows the dismissal of an employee at London Bridge accused of ‘unacceptable conduct’ during a confrontation with a passenger. The union said “a fare-dodger assaulted two members of staff, including pushing a pregnant colleague in the stomach. One staff member had his glasses stolen and was punched twice.”

The RMT had defended the member of staff concerned, saying he should have been praised for dealing with a violent member of the public.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said the action taken by London Underground was ‘outrageous’: “Our members are standing up in support of their victimised colleagues at London Bridge and with LU making it absolutely clear they have no interest in the principles of natural justice we have no option at all but to take this industrial action.  We have no doubt that the public will understand that.

“Despite the spin from LU the facts of this case remain the same. ‎It is about a fare dodger stopped and asked to pay his way who then turns violent and attacks staff doing their job. LU's message to thugs is that you can keep on fiddling your fares and lay into staff with impunity and it will be the front line tube workers who get the sack. It is outrageous.”

He continued: “LU have flouted their own zero tolerance policy, their own duty of care to their staff and have sent out a message to fare dodgers and yobbos that staff can be treated as punch bags with impunity. That is an outrage that has enraged every single Tube employee who risks their neck on the stations and platforms against a backdrop of a growing pattern of abuse and violence. It is also an insult to the three million Tube users who pay their fares without expecting a free ride.”

London Underground has denied the union’s version of events.

Operations director Brian Woodhead said: “CCTV footage from a number of different angles clearly shows a staff member displaying unacceptable conduct when dealing with a member of the public. The member of staff was dismissed following a full and thorough investigation.

”We have subsequently invited the general secretary of the union to view the footage himself but our invitation has not been accepted.”

The RMT is now balloting its Underground members at other stations over further industrial action.

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