The first ever UK-wide national rail strike could take place with as little as seven-days’ notice, as RMT union members voted overwhelmingly to reject a pay offer from Network Rail.
The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport workers had a 60 per cent turn-out of its 16,000 voters, of which 80 per cent voted in favour of strike action, and 92 per cent in favour of action short of a strike.
The pay deal offered to Network Rail staff included a one-off £500 bonus but no pay rise for 2015, then salaries limited to rises in line with inflation until 2019. In addition, the two-year non-compulsory redundancy commitment that Network Rail made is set to come to an end in 2016.
So what does this mean? Well, Network Rail are the owner and operator of all the rail infrastructure spanning Great Britain, which includes the tracks, overhead lines, and signals, with the RMT representing signalling staff. The Train Operating Companies then run their services on this infrastructure. In short, without Network Rail, no trains can run, grinding the entire train network to a halt.
Network Rail insist their offer should be considered in context, as they have exceeded the average awarded in other sectors. The RMT say they are still open to further talks, but this could just be the beginning – as another rail union, the TSSA (Transport Salaried Staff Association) has balloted its members on a strike, and that result is due on Friday.
This all comes on the same day as the new fully Conservative government announced plans to change legislation on how strikes can be called, and lifting the ban on employers calling in temporary agency staff for cover over a strike period. Unite the union have also involved themselves in these proposals, as they feel it will reduce the rights of working people.
For now, talks are ongoing between the RMT and Network Rail.
If you might be affected by these potential rail strikes, you can carshare to minimise disruption to your work or journeys. Signing up on Liftshare.com will enable you to offer a lift to others travelling the same way as you, or request one from others. It’s normally significantly cheaper than the train, and your journey will run regardless of whether or not strike action takes place.
Author Lex Barber