Posted 25th May 2022 | 8 Comments

RMT members vote ‘overwhelmingly’ for rail strikes

The staff in 13 train operating companies have voted in favour of rail strikes. The ballot also involved staff at Network Rail, who have added their support for walkouts.

A majority of RMT members at Govia Thameslink Railway only voted for industrial action short of a strike, while those at Island Line are understood not to have supported any industrial action.

The RMT described the result  of 89 per cent in favour of action as ‘overwhelming’, and said its National Executive Committee will now be considering its next steps. The union may now legally call strikes at any or all of the operators, and also at Network Rail, giving 14 days’ notice, but transport secretary Grant Shapps has said the law might have to be changed to enforce minimum attendance by railway employees.

The RMT said it would now be demanding ‘urgent talks’. General secretary MIck Lynch added: ‘Today's 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.

‘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.’

The chair of the Rail Delivery Group Steve Montgomery pointed out that the railways had received more then £16 billion in taxpayer support since the start of the Covid lockdowns in March 2020.

He said: ‘Our railways must adapt to attract more passengers back and reduce our running costs. 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. 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.

‘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 – 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.‘

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines accused the RMT of ‘jumping the gun’. He continued: ‘The RMT has jumped the gun here as everyone loses if there’s a strike. We know our people are concerned about job security and pay. As a public body we have been working on offering a pay increase that taxpayers can afford, and we continue to discuss this with our trades unions. We urge the RMT to sit down with us and continue to talk, not walk, so that we can find a compromise and avoid damaging industrial action.

‘We are at a key point in the railway’s recovery from the pandemic. The taxpayer has provided the industry with £16 billion worth of additional life support over the last two years and that cannot continue. Travel habits have changed forever and the railway has to change as well to adapt to this new reality. We believe that by modernising – creating safer jobs for our people and operating the railway more efficiently – we can build a sustainable future with a railway that delivers for passengers and taxpayers.

‘Any industrial action now would be disastrous for our industry’s recovery and would hugely impact vital supply and freight chains. It would also serve to undermine our collective ability to afford the pay increases we want to make.’

The last national walkouts were called in 1994, on the eve of privatisation, although the services of various private sector operators have been disrupted since then. Disputes are currently affecting ScotRail and TransPennine Express, while there was lengthy disruption of Southern services in 2016 (pictured) in a dispute over on-train staffing. The widespread cancellations which resulted led to an angry protest by Southern passengers at London Victoria.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Steve Froggatt, SHEFFIELD

    Although we aren't invoved with the strike action I do wonder where the BBC get the average rail workers wage to be 33,000 .
    I wish !! After 2 pay freezes and below inflation pay rises for years our company must be one of worst paying ex BR offshoots.
    Thank goodness for the pension and passes...

  • David Smith, Warminster

    The RMT claim via the RMT website the following events will happen :-

    Savage the Railway Pension Scheme and the TFL scheme, cutting benefits, making staff work longer, and poorer in retirement, while paying increased contributions.

    Thousands of job cuts across the rail networks.

    Attacking terms, conditions and working practices in a form of internal fire and re-hire.

    Cutting real pay for most of our members through lengthy pay freezes and below RPI inflation pay proposals.

    None of these claims are supported by evidence.

  • David Smith, Warminster

    I can see thiese ballot results ending up in the courts as none of the TOCs have tabled any proposals for job or other cuts and the NR proposal is very vague. The whole thing sounds like an RMT manufactured dispute.

  • Neil Palmer, Waterloo

    The Isle Of Wight. Last bastion of common sense in the RMT.

  • robert nutter, Manchester

    I can only comment on the Network Rail side of this shambles. I work for NR and I can tell you most of us are very happy with our jobs & pay. I for one earn 40,000 & many of my colleagues earn much much more, some 60000 + . I can't see any strike lasting long as most have families, mortgages, debts etc
    The unions & management are a shambles & they need to get this sorted.
    There are far too many managers, supervisors & pencil sharpeners so things need to change & I'm all for change being only 31 years of age.

  • Dan P, Sheffield

    16 billion spent on the railways since the first lockdown, but no mention of how much has gone to shareholders of the TOC owning groups

  • king arthur, buckley

    They want job security and believe organising a strike will somehow deliver that. It was this sort of thing that drove so many customers away from British Rail. Nothing like a return to the good old days eh?

  • John Porter, Leeds

    I wonder how wide is the gap between industrial action short of a strike and strike action at Govia Thameslink Railway and other operators
    ['Action short of a strike' includes such things as bans on Sunday and rest day working, or revenue protection staff declining to enforce penalty fares, but it is not of course for us to say what might happen in this case. 'Strike' implies not turning up for duty at all.--Ed.]