Union warns of ‘summer of discontent’ on trains as pay fails to rise with inflation

Rail workers could trigger “a summer of discontent” across Britain unless pay rises match inflation, a union boss has warned.

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the white-collar TSSA union, said: “We will not sit idly by as the Tories’ cost of living crisis hits our members in their pockets.

“Many of our members have not seen a pay increase for two years, and with prices rocketing enough is enough.

“If the Department for Transport, train operating companies and Network Rail don’t come forward very soon with proposed pay increases, which at least match inflation, a summer of discontent is on the way across our railways.”

As well as a demand for pay rises that keep pace with the 9 per cent inflation rate, TSSA in dispute with Network Rail over job security and working conditions.

The union is consulting over a possible national ballot for industrial action at Network Rail and across train operating companies in England.

A ballot of more than 40,000 members of the larger RMT union for the first national rail strike is under way, and closes next Tuesday, 24 May.

The general secretary, Mick Lynch, previously said: “Our members are extremely motivated to deliver a huge ‘yes’ vote.”

The union is threatening industrial action at both Network Rail and the train operators over pay, redundancies and a demand for “a guarantee there will be no detrimental changes to working practices”.

A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group, representing train operators, 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.

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“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.

“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 – the alternatives of asking taxpayers to shoulder even more of the burden after contributing an extra £16bn to the industry during covid, or passengers to pay even higher fares when they too are feeling the pinch, simply isn’t fair.”

If the RMT ballot yields a majority in favor of industrial action, the earliest possible date a strike could start is 7 June – after the four-day holiday weekend to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

In London, strike action has been announced on the Tube for the Jubilee holiday weekend itself. The RMT says members will walk out of Euston and Green Park stations on Friday 3 June in protest at a bullying and a “toxic working environment” caused by a particular manager.

The strikes would last all day on Friday and would affect passengers aiming to travel on the Victoria, Jubilee and Piccadilly Lines. Green Park is close to Buckingham Palace, while Euston is a key hub for passengers coming into London from the rest of the UK.


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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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