Threat of national rail strike grows


he threat of a national strike by rail workers is increasing after another trade union warned of a dispute over jobs, pay and conditions.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) said train operators and Network Rail were refusing to give guarantees on job security, pay and protecting terms and conditions for staff.

The union, which represents a range of station, on-board, operational, control, engineering, managerial and support staff, called for an industry-wide no compulsory redundancy agreement that was in place during the pandemic to be extended until at least the end of 2022.

We stand ready to ballot our members for action and cannot rule out a nationwide rail strike

TSSA said many rail staff have gone two years or more without a pay rise, adding that reports of widespread ticket office closures have not been denied by Government and the rail industry.

Manuel Cortes, TSSA general secretary, said: “Rail workers have kept our vital public transport services running throughout the coronavirus pandemic, yet they face uncertain job security and see wages falling behind the rising cost of living. We cannot stand by and let this happen.

“The least our railway workers deserve is a pay rise matching the cost-of-living increase and guarantees that their jobs are safe. As none of the companies are prepared to give those assurances, we find ourselves in dispute over these vital bread and butter issues.

“We’re consulting our reps across all companies on next moves. We stand ready to ballot our members for action and cannot rule out a nationwide rail strike.

“If we ballot, we will be looking to co-ordinate our industrial action with sister unions and any other workers taking action against the Tories’ cost-of-living crisis.”

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union has announced it is voting 40,000 of its members for industrial action over the same issues, with the result due at the end of May.

A Rail Delivery Group spokesperson said: “The pandemic was an unprecedented shock for the railway, with the lowest passenger numbers in over 150 years and record levels of public funding to keep it running.

“Our whole focus now should be securing a thriving future for rail that adapts to new travel patterns and takes no more than its fair share from taxpayers, instead of staging premature industrial action which would disrupt passengers’ lives and put the industry’s recovery at risk. ”

Tim Shoveller, Network Rail’s regional director, said: “Our railway has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, and even as passenger numbers start to recover, we know travel habits and passenger demand have changed, and the industry has to change too .

“We cannot keep relying on Government handout, and so we must work together with train operators and our trades unions to save millions of pounds and deliver a more efficient railway.

“Our modernization program aims to build a sustainable future that delivers for passengers and creates better and safer jobs for our people. We would not consider any changes that would make the railway less safe.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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