London Underground drivers on Monday walked out in an industrial fight over pay, threatening disruption for shoppers at the start of the post-Christmas sales and soccer fans hoping to catch a festive fixture.
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Members of train drivers’ union ASLEF voted overwhelmingly to hold a 24-hour strike Monday and on three more dates in the coming weeks in a move business chiefs warned could hit ailing retailers, AFP reported.
The union said the action was prompted by a refusal to pay drivers on the London Underground train network extra for working on Dec. 26, a public holiday called Boxing Day in the UK and other Commonwealth nations.
"The company is currently offering no additional payments for working on Boxing Day," said a union statement issued when the action was announced last week.
The High Court refused to halt the walkout, The Guardian reported, after the London Underground argued the union broke the law by balloting employees who would not be working Dec. 26.
Chelsea soccer club announced that their Monday match with Fulham would go ahead, but in anticipation of the strike action, Arsenal postponed their Boxing Day fixture with Wolves by 24 hours.
Transport for London hoped to run a reduced service and announced it would lay on extra buses in busy areas.
The union plans three more 24-hour strikes on January 16, February 3 and February 13 over the same issues.
ASLEF said it balloted 2,200 drivers on the Underground network, known as the Tube, and they returned a 92.3 percent vote in favor of action.
The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry accused the union of holding the British capital and its businesses "to ransom through yet more Tube strikes."
"Retailers have already had one of their toughest years with recent sales figures showing a decline year-on-year fueled by poor consumer confidence, rising unemployment and mild weather," said the body’s chief executive, Colin Stanbridge.
Meanwhile in Scotland, rail services were also disrupted by a 72-hour strike that began on Christmas Eve, The Scotsman reported.
British newspaper the Daily Mail also reported widespread passenger complaints after services by many of the UK’s 25 rail operators were axed over the Christmas holiday period. Passenger groups, rail experts and politicians voiced their anger at the situation, the newspaper reported.