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Railway workers vote overwhelmingly in favour of ‘biggest strike’ in decades

89% of balloted RMT Union members voted in favour of strike action.

Emily Sergeant Emily Sergeant - 25th May 2022

Railway workers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action across Network Rail and the train operating companies.

The RMT Union announced the outcome of the vote yesterday evening, and confirmed that 71% of its 40,000 members took part in the vote, with 89% voting in favour of strike action and only 11% voting against it.

RMT members working for Network Rail and 14 out of 15 of the train operators voted for “strike action and action short of strike”.

The Union has called it “the biggest endorsement for industrial action” by railway workers since privatisation, and says it will now be demanding “urgent talks” with Network Rail and the 15 train operating companies that were balloted to find a negotiated settlement to the dispute over pay, jobs, and safety.

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It’s thought that services could be reduced to around a fifth of the normal weekday timetable.

It is also possible trains will only run for part of the day, such as from 7am to 7pm, and only on main lines too, although this is only speculation at this point.

“This overwhelming endorsement by railway workers is a vindication of the union’s approach and sends a clear message that members want a decent pay rise, job security and no compulsory redundancies,” said Mick Lynch – General Secretary at RMT Union.

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“Our NEC will now meet to discuss a timetable for strike action from mid-June.

“But we sincerely hope ministers will encourage the employers to return to the negotiating table and hammer out a reasonable settlement with the RMT.”

Read more: Manchester trains replaced with buses over Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend

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Northern was one of the balloted train operators with workers voting in favour of strike action, as well as Avanti West Coast, Transpennine Express, and other major operators including Greater Anglia, GWR, LNER, East Midlands Railway, West Midlands Trains, and South Western Railway.

Sources say if strike action does go ahead, it would cost the rail industry around £30 million each day.

89% of balloted RMT Union members voted in favour of strike action / Credit: Northern

Three issues are said to be at the heart of the dispute for the union – pay, compulsory redundancies, and safety concerns.

Speaking on the outcome of the vote, Steve Montgomery – Group Chair of the Rail Delivery Group, representing train operators – said: “Our railways must adapt to attract more passengers back and reduce our running costs [and] it is not fair to ask taxpayers to continue to shoulder the burden when there are other vital services that need public support.

“Nobody wins when industrial action threatens to disrupt the lives and livelihoods of passengers and businesses and puts the industry’s recovery at risk.

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“We urge the RMT leadership to behave responsibly, and to talk to us to find a way to avoid damaging industrial action and secure the long-term future of the industry.”

RMT Union has called it “the biggest endorsement for industrial action” by railway workers since privatisation / Credit: Network Rail

He added that every business wants to support its staff, and “the railway is no exception”.

“All train operators want to offer their staff a pay rise and are working hard to make that happen. But, as an industry, we have to change our ways of working and improve productivity to help pay our own way,” he continued.

“The alternatives of asking taxpayers to shoulder the burden after government has contributed over £16 billion to the industry during COVID, or asking passengers to pay even higher fares when they too are feeling the pinch, simply isn’t fair.”

Featured Image – Network Rail