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Union votes for first national rail strike in a generation

Britain is braced for the first national rail strike in a generation as the largest rail union announces its members voted in favour of action by an overwhelming majority.

RMT today confirmed that Network Rail members have voted ‘Yes’ by massive majorities in a ballot for both strike action and action short of a strike in the current dispute over pay. 

Network Rail members have voted by 80% for strike action on a 60% turn out and by 92% for action short of a strike.

The vote comfortably outstrips 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’s executive committee will now consider what action to take.

The union rejected a revised offer from Network Rail that was tabled after intensive talks through ACAS.

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. 

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Our members have today decisively rejected the pay package offered by Network Rail. This is a massive mandate for action and shows the anger of safety-critical staff across the rail network at attacks on their standards of living and their job security. It is now down to NR to start taking this issue seriously, to understand the deep-seated grievance felt by their staff and to come forward with a renewed offer which protects pay and jobs. 

“The union executive will now consider this overwhelming mandate for action and decide on our next steps aimed at securing pay and workplace justice.

“As far as we are concerned the one off, non-consolidated, lump-sum payment this year is wholly inadequate and fails to recognise the massive pressures staff are working under to keep services running at a time when the company is generating profits of £1bn. It is our members battling to keep Britain moving around the clock and they deserve a fair share from Network Rail for their incredible efforts.”

He added that RMT remains available for talks if Network Rail would like to come back to the table.

Since RMT announced they would be balloting for action, Network Rail has done all it can to urge members to vote ‘No’. Earlier this month RTM reported that Network Rail managers were told to warn staff considering strike action that if they voted ‘Yes’, they would lose up to 20% of their bonus. 

After hearing the result of the ballot, Mark Carne, Network Rail chief executive, said: “The railways are a vital public service, and industrial action would have a massive impact on millions of passengers as well as freight distribution across Britain. It cannot be right that the unions can hold the country to ransom in this way.

“Our employees have received pay rises eight times higher than other public sector workers over the last four years and have now been offered a deal for the next four years that is unmatched elsewhere.

“Despite the very clear need to modernise our railways, we have offered a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies for the next two years.  The unions have also rejected a number of proposals that would boost productivity, removing our ability to offer them more.”

(Image source: Nick Ansell/PA Wire)

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.


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