Network Rail will formally begin the process to lay off up to 1,800 members of staff by the end of this coming month, it has informed the RMT. This news comes as the biggest rail strike in modern history gets underway and has halted most train services, forcing a lot of travellers on to congested roads.
Talks were expected to begin on Wednesday, which would seek to find a settlement to the dispute that has seen industrial action take place this week. 40,000 members of staff from Network Rail and a further 13 train operators have engaged in these 24-hour walkouts, which began on the 21st June.
The plans to cut staffing numbers from Network Rail were met with uproar and received criticisms from the unions and industry spectators. These cuts come from an attempt to free up budgetary restraints, which would allow the operator to improve train services, boosting efficiency and enable infrastructure investment where possible.
Even with these cost cutting measures in place, Network Rail will require an enormous monetary influx to execute the planned track improvements and acquire the requisite equipment for testing and repair works along the rail lines. The operator has announced the start of formal consultations from the 1st July, as part of the modernisation plans to help save more than £100m per year, which is set to incorporate these compulsory redundancies, if necessary.
Network Rail’s plans for maintenance regime reform will mean that staff operating within these areas will reduce, leading the operator to start a series of formal redundancy consultations under section 188 of the labour relations act. Originally it was hoped that enough staff would be willing to take voluntary redundancy and avoid compulsory layoffs wherever possible.
Tim Shoveller, Network Rail’s chief negotiator, said:
“The changes will mean dumping outdated working practices and introducing new technology, both of which will lead to a more effective and safer maintenance organisation.
“We expect this will reduce roles by about 1,800, the vast majority of which will be lost through voluntary severance and natural wastage.”