Piccadilly Line Tube workers balloted for strike action

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Media captionConservatives on the London Assembly want a ban on Tube strikes

Workers on the Piccadilly Line on London Underground (LU) are to be balloted for strike action in a row over working conditions.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union is opposed to LU plans to relocate some drivers from Acton Town Depot in west London.

LU said the ballot was "completely unnecessary" as talks were continuing.

The action comes as the London Assembly Conservative group called for a ban on Tube drivers going on strike.

Any policy aimed at curbing strikes was "doomed to failure", the union said.

Strike ban 'stupid'

LU said there had been long-standing plans to move some drivers from Acton Town Depot, which serves both the District and Piccadilly Lines, to the depot in Northfields.

But the union said LU had "unilaterally" decided to "split" the depot and alter agreed rosters and booking times.

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said: "Driver and instructor members on the Piccadilly Line are furious at this unilateral attack by the company on working conditions, agreements and procedures and we are moving forwards with plans for a ballot for strike action."

He said the union will also talk with drivers' union Aslef.

Urging RMT to continue the talks Phil O'Hare, LU's Piccadilly line manager, said: "The union has raised a number of unrelated local issues with us around the application of current LU attendance and disciplinary procedures, all of which we addressed and explained through several meetings with union representatives three months ago.

"In addition, discussions are ongoing through the processes agreed with all unions about the nature of working facilities at the Northfields depot due to open shortly."

'Too easy' to strike

The balloting came as a report by the London Assembly group called for binding arbitration to curb strikes on the network.

The report said Tube strikes cost the economy £48m a day and about £1bn has been lost due to industrial action between 2005 and 2009.

More of than half of the 300 Londoners surveyed by the study wanted some form of a ban on strikes.

Richard Tracey, Tory transport spokesman, 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.

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

Mr Crow responded: "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."

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