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Ballot on first national rail strike in a generation to start next week

RMT will start to ballot on Britain’s first national rail strike action in a generation next week.

The union plans to send out ballot papers to members’ home addresses from Tuesday 28 April with the ballot closing two weeks later on Tuesday 12 May.

Balloting comes after a fresh wave of talks with Network Rail last week had led to an improved pay offer being tabled by the employer; however both RMT and TSSA found that the offer was still not good enough.

The revised offer included a £500 non-consolidated lump sum for all staff (pro-rata for part-time staff) covered by these bargaining groups as the pay deal for 2015; a consolidated inflation (RPI) percentage increase for 2016, 2017, 2018, with a guarantee of no salary reduction if RPI falls below 0%; no compulsory redundancies in 2015 or 2016; and Network Rail committing to equality proofing pay arrangements.

However, RMT and TSSA said that the talks through ACAS have failed to produce enough movement from Network Rail leaving the unions with “no alternative” but to move to a national industrial action vote.

Phil Hufton, Network Rail’s managing director of network operations, said he was disappointed with the decision to reject the offer and move towards industrial action.

RMT is also poised for further strike action in the north. The union is in dispute with Northern Rail over the future of Revenue Protection workers and is preparing to ballot Northern Rail Conductor, Station and Driver grade members for industrial action.

A letter to members from the general secretary, Mick Cash, said: “The RMT believes that the long term future of the railway industry is in severe danger of becoming an industry that profits from a casualised workforce on zero hour contracts.

“Indeed, Northern Rail has given no commitments to the future of Revenue Protection beyond the current franchise, which is due to end in February 2016. Furthermore, one of the conditions for the new Northern Rail franchise is that 50% of services will run as Driver Controlled Operation (DCO). This development will further erode the role and responsibilities of the Guard and pave the way for eventual Driver Only Operation.

“The actions of Northern Rail management is creating an unsafe working environment and putting our members and the travelling public safety at risk. All of these issues have resulted in a comprehensive breakdown in industrial relations between the RMT and Northern Rail.”

A Northern Rail spokesperson told RTM: "We have not been notified of any RMT intention to ballot members for industrial action.

"We are aware the RMT has circulated a note to their membership at Northern, explaining that they plan to ballot in the near future over a dispute they call a Breakdown in Industrial Relations.

"As always we are open to talks with the RMT."

(Image source: Nick Ansell/PA Wire)

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