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National rail strike planned for bank holiday Monday

Rail workers across Britain will stage a 24-hour walkout starting on bank holiday Monday in the first national rail strike for 20 years.

It comes after members of RMT in Operations, Maintenance, Customer Services and associated grades voted ‘Yes’ by massive majorities in a ballot for both strike action and action short of a strike in the current dispute over pay.

The strike will start at 5pm on Monday 25 May and last for 24 hours, likely causing severe disruption when commuters return to work Tuesday morning. The union is also instituting an overtime ban for 48 hours on the Monday and Tuesday.

Mark Carne, Network Rail chief executive, said: “This strike is deliberately timed to cause maximum disruption to families trying to enjoy the half-term break and millions more returning to work after the bank holiday. I find it deplorable that the RMT can hold the travelling public to ransom in this way.

“This week we have been talking to ACAS to try to get the RMT back around the table. The public knows only too well that our railway must improve. We want to work with the unions so that we can reward our staff through improved productivity.”

Network Rail’s RMT union members voted 80% for strike action on a 60% turnout, and by 92% for action short of a strike.

The vote comfortably outstripped even the stricter criteria for industrial action proposed by the Conservative Party in its manifesto, which says industrial action in health, education, transport and fire services will only be possible with the support of at least 40% of all eligible union members.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "Our members have decisively rejected the pay package offered by Network Rail and the failure of the company to make any moves whatsoever in light of the overwhelming vote in the ballot has left us with no option but to move to a rolling programme of industrial action.

"We have a massive mandate for action which shows the anger of safety-critical staff across the rail network at attacks on their standards of living and their job security. It is appalling that Network Rail are refusing point blank to take this dispute seriously, to understand the deep-seated grievance felt by their staff and to come forward with a renewed offer which protects pay, jobs and safety. 

"Our rail staff deserve a fair reward for the high-pressure, safety-critical work that they undertake day and night and the last thing that we need is a demoralised, burnt-out workforce living in fear for their futures and the message has come back loud and clear that that is exactly how they feel about the current offer from Network Rail."

The union has rejected a four-year deal worth £500 per worker this year, followed by three years of increases matching inflation as well as a no compulsory redundancy commitment to December 2016.

Discussing the rejected pay offer, Carne added: “The RMT say we can afford more than what’s on offer. What they don’t say is that Network Rail is a public service body and that all profits are reinvested in building a bigger, better, more reliable railway. Any pay increase comes from the pockets of taxpayers and fare paying passengers.”

The TSSA has also balloted its members for a strike, the result is due next week.

Network Rail has a series of maintenance and engineering works scheduled for Monday 25 May that could be affected by the strike. Work is scheduled to take place on the lines between Hackney Downs and Cheshunt as well as between Oxenholme Lake District and Glasgow Central/Edinburgh with various line closures.

Overnight engineering work is also scheduled to take place between Stalybridge and Manchester Piccadilly closing some lines.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “I condemn any industrial action that disrupts the travelling public. Network Rail has put a fair offer on the table and has sought further talks with the unions.

“Rail passengers will not thank the unions for inflicting this unnecessary disruption.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]

More workforce and recruitment stories in the April/May 2015 edition of RTM, which you can read for FREE using the new App, available on iOS and Android. Search ‘RTM Magazine’ in the App Store / Google Play.


Keith Ballantyne   15/05/2015 at 16:10

As a retired senior rail manager, I fully support the unions on this. For the best part of the last 20 years, the so-called private rail operators have treated the industry as an accounting exercise that diverts taxpayers money into their shareholders pockets, or rather, the industry in its current form has allowed them to privatise their profits while nationalising its losses. In conclusion, if we'd kept the industry in state hands 20 years ago, and given it half the subsidy that we have given the private operators, we'd have a damn good rail network now, been quids in and the deaths of Ladbroke Grove, Hatfield and Potters Bar would not have occurred.

Pete Thorpe   16/05/2015 at 09:33

"the deaths of Ladbroke Grove, Hatfield and Potters Bar would not have occurred". They MAY not of occurred, but no-one can say they WOULD not have occurred.

Wimg   17/05/2015 at 07:57

'keep the Industry in state hands' .... , just like in Germany with regular railway strikes on the menu .. ..

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