London Underground workers at the failed Metronet consortium have voted overwhelmingly to strike in defence of their terms and conditions.
Any action by the almost 3,000 workers will have a huge impact on the tube network.
Some 98 percent of RMT union members voted to strike – 1,123 votes to 20 – on a 51 percent turnout. In the TSSA union 77 percent voted to strike on a 48 percent turnout. And members of the Unite union voted by 90 percent to strike on an 85 percent turnout.
Following this resounding vote for action, the unions were set to meet the company on Wednesday of this week. If no guarantees were forthcoming they were to call hard-hitting industrial action.
The tube unions are in a vital battle over the direction that public services take under Gordon Brown.
Metronet was responsible for the maintenance and infrastructure of two thirds of the London Underground under Gordon Brown’s Public Private Partnership (PPP).
It ran up hundreds of millions of pounds of debt and went into administration.
Accountancy firm Ernst & Young has taken over as the administrator.
But it has not provided guarantees that there will be no job losses or forced transfers as a result of the company’s financial collapse.
The unions are demanding that Metronet is brought back in-house as a public company.
Bob Crow, the RMT general secretary, told a press conference on Monday of this week, “With the failure of Metronet out members’ terms and conditions were left high and dry.
“The firms took millions of pounds while our members who are retiring are losing 10 percent of their pensions.
“We want an agreement that there will be no transfers to the private sector.
“Any strike will paralyse London Underground and cause massive disruption.
“This is an opportunity to bring a not-for-profit company into the tube to take over the infrastructure.
“The unions are also planning a demonstration outside the office of Ruth Kelly, the new secretary of state for transport.”
Gerry Doherty, the TSSA general secretary, said, “Our ballot result shows the strength of feeling among members on these issues.
“The PPP was an abject failure. Train and tube services are better served by being in the public sector.
“There are plans to transfer 500 jobs to Bombadier, one of the companies that formed Metronet.
“We are not having it.
“There is a political price to be paid for the failure of the PPP. But it will not be paid by TSSA members.”
Jennie Bremner, the Unite assistant general secretary, added, “Our members are asking for a guarantee over their job and pension security.
‘If we don’t get that we have a mandate for strike action.”