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Boris Bike staff to be balloted on London Olympic strike

Barclays Cycle Hire staff consider action in response to changed shift patterns and increased Olympic workload

London could be without its Boris Bikes during the upcoming Olympic games as workers who operate the scheme join the list of those seeking extra reward for extra work ahead of what is expected a phenomenally busy Olympic period.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) which represents workers at the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme says its members are concerned about changes to shift patterns and the increased workload for no extra financial reward during the Olympics. The Union - which is not recognised by SERCO, the company contracted to manage the scheme - intends to ballot its members on taking industrial action.

Commenting on the move RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said: "Despite an increasing workload this summer as we head towards the Olympics the staff running the London cycle hire scheme are facing a bullying management who are imposing outrageous changes to conditions of service while denying our members any additional reward for the pressure of the Games.

"RMT will not stand aside and watch this group of key transport staff get kicked from pillar to post."

The RMT has already secured special Olympic pay deals for key transport workers such as  tube and train drivers and speaking to the BBC Bob Crow said:

"The London Cycle Hire Scheme is much more than a vanity project and a publicity stunt for the London Mayor. It is now a valuable part of our transport system and the staff should be valued as such."

In response SERCO said in a statement that would be meeting with the Community Trade Union - which the company recognises on 12th of June to discuss Olympic working arrangements.

"Serco has been in consultation with our staff with regard to changes to working conditions and workload and shift patterns have been changed as a result."

The company's statement added that the RMT would not be part of the consultation process because the union had withdrawn its application for recognition on 24th of May - coincidentally just two days after Barclays Cycle Hire recorded its busiest day ever.

London's and the South East's transport infrasturcture is expected to come under immense strain during the Olympic period with extra trains and buses being laid on to cope with demand.  To ease congestion many civil servants will be allowed to work from home during the Games and other employers have been urged to allow their staff to do likewise. Transport for London has also asked to Londoners to consider alternative forms of transport including cycling and walking.

In March the Barclays Cycle Hire extended east in to the London Borought of Tower Hamlets bringing it to the edge of the  Olympic site, although it doesn't extend quite as far as Stratford, adding 2,300 additional bikes and 4,800 new docking points - one reason SERCO has looked to change shift patterns.

The Barclays Cycle Hire scheme covers pretty much all those parts of London most likely to be affected by the heaviest levels of Olympic congestion and it is likely to experience high levels of extra demand as Londoners and visitors alike  switch from other forms of transport during the Games. A strike by workers could well have a significant knock on effect in adding extra strain to transport services already likely to be working at peak capacity.

Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.

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