RMT General Secretary addresses potential strike action
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More than 40,000 staff from Network Rail and 13 train operators are expected to take part in a three-day strike after talks over pay and redundancies fell through. The action could leave only a fifth of mainline rail services running on these strike days, with the majority operating for a maximum of 12 hours; causing widespread disruption to passenger and freight services across England, Scotland, and Wales.
The RMT Union said members working for train companies have been subject to “pay freezes, threats to jobs and attacks on their terms and conditions”.
Network Rail plans to axe 2,500 maintenance jobs in an attempt to make £2 billion in savings over the next two years.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Railway workers have been treated appallingly and despite our best efforts in negotiations, the rail industry with the support of the Government has failed to take their concerns seriously.
“We have a cost-of-living crisis, and it is unacceptable for railway workers to either lose their jobs or face another year of a pay freeze when inflation is at 11.1pc and rising.
“Our union will now embark on a sustained campaign of industrial action which will shut down the railway system.”
He claimed rail companies are making at least £500 million a year in profits, before adding: “This unfairness is fuelling our members’ anger and their determination to win a fair settlement.
“RMT is open to meaningful negotiations with rail bosses and ministers, but they will need to come up with new proposals to prevent months of disruption on our railways.”
When will the strikes be taking place?
The RMT Rail Union strikes will be taking place on June 21, 23, and 25.
The first day of the planned strike on June 21 will see London Underground RMT workers join the strike over a separate dispute over pensions and job losses – which will bring the total number of strikers to over 50,000.
RMT members include everyone from drivers, guards and catering staff to signallers and track maintenance workers.
Employees from 13 train operating companies will be taking part up and down the country, including those from:
Cross Country Trains
East Midlands Railway
Great Western Railway
South Eastern Railway
South Western Railway
Avanti West Coast
West Midlands Trains
Workers at Network Rail also voted to strike.
The supply of foods, goods and energy will be prioritised according to the Government, and trains might only be running on a reduced service on main lines.
Contingency plans are being worked on in a bid to keep some services running, but the timetable would be largely reduced.
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These strikes coincide with a number of major summer events, including Glastonbury Festival, the British athletics championships, as well as Hyde Park concerts for Elton John and the Rolling Stones to name a few.
On the strikes, Andrew Haines, Network Rail’s chief executive said: “We continue to meet with our trades unions to discuss their pay concerns and we’re doing everything we can to avoid strike action on the railway.
“We know that the cost of living has increased and we want to give our people a pay rise, but the RMT must recognise we are a public body and any pay increase has to be affordable for taxpayers.
“Travel habits have changed forever and the railway must change as well.”
“We cannot expect to take more than our fair share of public funds, and so we must modernise our industry to put it on a sound financial footing for the future.
“Failure to modernise will only lead to industry decline and more job losses in the long run.”
Describing the strike as “incredibly disappointing”, Transport Secretary Grant Schapps said: “The pandemic has changed travel habits – with 25 percent fewer ticket sales and the taxpayer stepping in to keep the railways running at a cost of £16bn, equivalent to £600 per household.
“We must act now to put the industry on a sustainable footing.
“We are working with industry to reduce disruption caused by strike action, but unions are jumping the gun by announcing this when talks have only just begun.
“We once again want to urge the unions to come to talks with the rail industry so we can work together to build a better, more modern, passenger-focused, railway.”
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