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Rail prepares for strike action as talks fail


It now appears that, despite talks taking place up to the last minute between RMT and rail operators, that the first of three days of industrial action is likely to go ahead tomorrow.

Train operators have set out restricted timetables, with the general message being to avoid travel by rail during the strikes.

Last month, RMT announced that its ballot found in favour of a major strike – with 89% of those voting doing so in agreement with the action. The vote was over pay, job losses and safety.

The union subsequently said it will shut down the country’s railway network on 21, 23 and 25 June.

The ballot gives them the nod from members to call strikes for up to six months. The union has to provide two weeks’ notice.

Andrew Haines, Network Rail.

It would be the first time since 1994 that Network Rail workers would take part in a national strike. Involving more 40,000 railway staff, it would be the biggest dispute on the network since 1989.

RMT said it had called for urgent talks, including asking for a face-to-face meeting with transport secretary Grant Shapps.

Network Rail’s chief executive Andrew Haines had said they will keep talking to the unions and “through common sense on both sides, we hope to find a solution and avoid the damage that strike action would cause all involved”.

Only around half of Britain’s rail network will be open on strike days with a very limited service running on lines that will only be open from around 7.30am until 6.30pm.

Tricia Williams, Northern.

Among the warnings of changes to services during the strike period, Northern pointed out that the timing of the strike action has a knock-on effect on the days in-between, with disruption of operations, the displacement of trains across the network and shift patterns.

Tricia Williams, chief operating officer at Northern, said: “Our ability to get customers where they want to be will be significantly impacted and our advice, regrettably, is simply not to travel during the week of strike action.

“We apologise in advance for the disruption and inconvenience that the RMT’s industrial action may cause. We continue to be keen to speak to the RMT to find a resolution and avoid any strikes.”

No agreement

On Saturday, RMT said no settlement had been reached and that action was going ahead. In a statement it said: “It has to be re-stated that the source of these disputes is the decision by the Tory Government to cut £4bn of funding from our transport systems – £2bn from national rail and £2bn from Transport for London.”

It said that this meant that via “employing companies” the result was pensions affected, jobs being cut, terms and conditions being affected and a cut in “real pay” due to pay freezes and “below RPI pay proposals”.

On Sunday, the day after a TUC march in London blamed government for the cost-of-living emergencyRMT general secretary Mick Lynch told Sky News he believed other unions would ballot in other sectors.

Writing in The Sun, transport secretary Grant Shapps said some leaders at RMT “believe that they can demand a substantial pay rise without promising to reform outdated working practices that, by rights, should have been consigned to the Museum of Industrial Relations.”

Overtime and strikes

Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport.

In another column for The Sun, last week, Grant Shapps said the strike action was “totally avoidable” and said that the development was a “cynical calculation” by RMT leaders.

“In the past, rail workers have been able to top up wage packets reduced by striking through overtime working on subsequent days. That won’t be happening this time,” he said.

In response, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has said: “Grant Shapps needs to stop smearing the RMT and unshackle the rail operating companies so they can come to a negotiated settlement that can end this dispute.”

He said the vote was for action over the cost of living, and he added that any attempt to “reduce … rights further” would result in the “fiercest resistance possible”.

Then at another even at the Siemens maintenance plant in Hornsey, north London, Shapps said the strikes were happening at a bad time for rail: “Make no mistake, unlike the past 25 years, when rising passenger demand, year after year, was taken for granted by the industry, today the railway is in a fight.

“It’s not only competing against other forms of public and private transport, it’s in a battle with Zoom, Teams and remote working. In case the unions haven’t noticed, the world has changed.

“Many commuters, who three years ago had no alternative to taking the train, today have the option of not travelling at all. Wave them goodbye and it will endanger the jobs of thousands of rail workers.”


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