UNION boss Bob Crow has targeted North East rock concerts worth more than £7m as he takes Metro drivers out on strike.
The RMT said it has been left with no option but to go ahead with strike action on June 7 and 21, the dates of Sunderland’s Stadium of Light concerts for Coldplay and Bruce Springsteen.
While concert organisers at Sunderland AFC have said there is no prospect of the events not going ahead, warnings have been sounded about the wider impact of the RMT targeting the North East economy.
RMT Metro drivers earning average annual wages of around £37,000, including overtime, voted to reject a pay offer of 1.3%.
Rail bosses say the union was offered a further payment for lowered paid staff to increase their salaries but this was also rejected.
Last night the RMT said it would be writing to American singer Bruce Springsteen asking him to support their action, and to show the same solidarity he famously showed towards striking miners.
Cleaners on the Metro system will also be going on strike with a 48-hour walk-out starting at 10.30pm on Sunday June 10. Cleaners are also unhappy about the sacking of a colleague.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “In the face of the insulting pay offer of 1.3% offer for DB Regio, the attempt to impose poverty pay on the cleaners and the outrageous attack on one of our members we have had no option but to take action in defence of standards of living in a climate free from victimisation.”
He added: “RMT cleaners have shown that they will not put up with victimisation and bullying and poverty pay and the DB Regio members have given a resounding no to attacks on pay and conditions, they have delivered the strongest possible mandate for action in three separate ballots and we know that the action announced today will prove to be rock solid.”
Three different ballots for strike action among cleaners and drivers produced support of between 70% and 100%, with all the Metro drivers thought to be in the RMT union.
North East RMT coordinator Micky Thompson last night blamed the strike action on both rail operator DB Tyne and Wear and Nexus, the council-backed group which owns the railway.
Mr Thompson added: “We don’t want anyone to cause disruption but we have workers who deserve a just wage.
“We saw the concerts coming up and they fell into our hands, we are not going to turn down the chance to strengthen our hand, but we do not want to be in this situation, and DB and Nexus, who have came to this very late, can still avoid this by making a proper and realistic offer to us. 1.3% is less than inflation, it is a de facto pay cut and we are not prepared to sit back and let that happen.”
Last night many of the region’s Labour politicians were reluctant to condemn strike action even though it threatens to undermine major summer events. The Journal contacted the office of David Miliband, who sits on Sunderland AFC’s board, to see if the MP supported strike action but a comment was not provided. The constituency office said the MP is currently out of the country.
Strike talks have however been called for by the North East Chamber of Commerce.
Head of policy Ross Smith, said: “The concerts at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light provide a showcase for the region and bring in millions to the North East economy.
“To even consider strike action on days where the region will be packed with visitors reliant on public transport – not to mention the people who use the service every day – is both irresponsible and counter-productive.
“Hopefully common sense will prevail and industrial action will be avoided.”
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