What Is Boxing Day
December 26, 2011 by staff
What Is Boxing Day, Much-reduced rail services and a London-wide tube strike has caused major travel disruption on Boxing Day. A 24-hour walkout by tube drivers affected London Underground while overground lines remained shut in most of the country, making travel difficult for those needing to make journeys on public transport.
Londoners relied on buses to move around the capital as underground drivers belonging to the Aslef union staged a 24-hour strike over extra pay for members working on the public holiday. LU mounted a last-minute legal challenge but a high court judge ruled last week that the strike was lawful and could go ahead. As a result of the action, Arsenal postponed their Boxing Day Premier League fixture with Wolves by 24 hours.
Aslef’s general secretary, Mick Whelan, said underground workers needed “quality time” off over the Christmas period and said the union had been negotiating on the issue for two years.
“The original dispute two years ago was about quality time off,” he told Radio 4′s Today programme. “We agree that we made an agreement with the company in the mid-90s. At that time very few trains ran on Boxing Day. In the last decade and a half we have run as many trains on Boxing Day some years as we run on any day of the week, so the intended quality time people were expecting to get has never happened.”
The union’s terms were “negotiable”, he added, with transfer and training agreements that could be made to “subsidise what we are seeking to achieve”.
The union plans three more 24-hour strikes on 16 January, 3 February and 13 February; it said it balloted 2,200 drivers on the underground network, who returned a 92.3% vote in favour of action. The union had “no intention” of staging a strike during the Olympics, he added.
Howard Collins, London Underground’s chief operating officer, said the number of drivers scheduled to work this year had been reduced from last year’s 1,100 to 880. “I can’t pay people twice,” he said. “The salary for train drivers, including working Christmas Day and Boxing Day, is an all-inclusive salary.”
The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry accused Aslef of holding London 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 fuelled by poor consumer confidence, rising unemployment and mild weather,” said its chief executive, Colin Stanbridge.
Meanwhile, trains throughout the country were running at a significantly reduced service, with only five rail companies out of 25 running a “limited” Boxing Day service.
Labour accused the coalition government of “hypocrisy” for failing to ensure a rail service on Boxing Day, after routinely attacking Labour for forcing families and sports fans on to the roads by failing to provide trains the day after Christmas.
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