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Old 12-31-2005, 03:22 PM   #1
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Default London Underground Workers Stage New Year's Eve Strike

Copy and Pasted from http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,180289,00.html

Saturday, December 31, 2005

LONDON Subway workers walked out Saturday in a 24-hour strike timed to cripple the London Underground during New Year's Eve celebrations.

Guards and ticket office workers, upset over new staff assignments and schedules, began leaving their posts at noon, and the service was expected to slow down over the evening as others finished shifts and were not replaced.

London Underground said it hoped enough workers unaffiliated with the union behind the strike would turn up to keep some services running on all lines. About 4,000 of the 6,000 subway station workers belong to the RMT union.

Only 23 of the subway's 275 stations were closed by late afternoon, and authorities said all lines had good service. During past strikes, managers have stepped in to maintain limited service in a network that handles up 3 million passenger journeys a day.

"We hope to be able to provide services throughout the night. We hope to be able to keep all our stations open," said Nigel Holness, an official with London Underground.

Subway drivers were not striking, though the RMT said some refused to take out trains due to safety concerns.

(Story continues below)

The strike was expected to disrupt the plans of many people to attend an open air party with fireworks in Trafalgar Square.

It was also expected to affect Sunday's colorful New Year Parade in Parliament Square, which in previous years has drawn 10,000 dancers, musicians and other performers from all over the world.

"London deserves better than this," said parade organizer Dan Kirkby.

Transport for London, which operates the city's buses, said it would open 40 extra routes through the night to handle the extra volume of New Year's passengers.

It was London's first subway strike on New Year's Eve.

Joanne Hewitt, 28, said the strike was complicating her plans to host a party. She was temporarily stranded at King's Cross, a major rail and subway junction in north London, when ticket staff abandoned their offices.

"We might have to get a bus or a taxi," said Hewitt, who was trying to get home to Earl's Court, west London. "Our friends ... are flying into Heathrow, but they can't get the Tube to come to our party tonight. So it's not great."

The strike echoed a three-day walkout by New York transit workers over pensions that shut down subways and buses just before Christmas. In London, however, subway strikes are relatively common, in contrast to New York, whose walkout was the first in more than 25 years.

The RMT is demanding that London Underground suspend introduction of new staff assignments and schedules, saying they threaten safety because they spread staff too thin. Managers say they would never compromise on safety.

Another 24-hour subway strike was planned for Jan. 8.
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