Major rail strike to go ahead next week after talks to prevent it collapse

A strike by more than 40,000 workers at Network Rail and 14 train operating companies will go ahead next week after talks to prevent it failed.

Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) members will walk out on Wednesday July 27 in a bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.

It will cripple rail services across the country, and on top of that, more industrial action will be going on.

The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) has also announced a strike by its members at Avanti West Coast on the same day.

Strikes have been called across a number of sectors in recent months, including by postal workers, telecoms workers and exam board staff, amid a cost of living crisis.

With retail price index inflation hitting 11.8% in June – the highest in 40 years – many are saying any pay rises they’re currently being offered still amount to a cut.

And unions argue that in the case of the rail industry, most workers haven’t had a pay rise in around three years while rail companies continue to make handsome profits.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘Strike action will take place next Wednesday as planned and our members are more determined than ever to secure a decent pay rise, job security and good working conditions.

‘Network Rail have not made any improvement on their previous pay offer and the train companies have not offered us anything new.

‘In fact Network Rail have upped the ante, threatening to impose compulsory redundancies and unsafe 50% cuts to maintenance work if we did not withdraw our planned strike action.

‘The train operating companies have put driver-only operations on the table along with ransacking our members’ terms and conditions.

‘RMT will continue to negotiate in good faith but we will not be bullied or cajoled by anyone.

‘The Government need to stop their interference in this dispute so the rail employers can come to a negotiated settlement with us.’

Transport for London (TfL) said while the industrial action does not involve its staff, varying degrees of disruption are expected on the District and Bakerloo Tube lines, London Overground, and the Elizabeth line, which all share some sections of track with Network Rail.

Passengers should also expect some disruption on the morning of July 28 with a later start to services as signalling staff return to work.

On July 30, members of the drivers’ union Aslef at eight train operators across the country will go on strike.

Tim Shoveller, Network Rail’s lead negotiator, said: ‘Once again the RMT Executive has walked away from ongoing and constructive talks that could have avoided next week’s strike and it’s now abundantly clear that their political campaign is taking precedence over representing their members’ interests.

‘A two-year, 8% deal with a no-compulsory-redundancy guarantee and other benefits and extras was on the table and they have walked away without giving their members a voice or a choice.

‘Our door remains open to try and avert this pointless action that will cost strikers dear.

‘We will now consider how we will move forward with our reform plans despite the RMT obstinacy.’

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: ‘It’s now clearer than ever that the RMT has no interest in engaging in constructive discussions and is hell-bent on creating further misery for passengers across the UK.

‘This action is a cynically timed attempt to derail the start of the Commonwealth Games, one of the first major events the country has been able to look forward to since the pandemic.

‘As well as those travelling to the Games, RMT’s actions will affect people in need of urgent care, hardworking families off on long-awaited holidays and day trips, and businesses – all while a fair two-year, 8% deal hasn’t even been put to their members.

‘The rail industry has to modernise and be brought into the 21st century for the benefit of passengers and staff.

‘We’re extremely disappointed to see that instead of staying at the table, RMT executives have chosen to walk away once more.’

A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group said: ‘Sadly, these RMT strikes will upset passengers’ summer plans, undermine businesses and upend the industry’s recovery, making it more difficult to fund a settlement.

‘We want to give our people an increase in pay, but we have a responsibility to do that by making reasonable changes to long outdated working practices – already successfully introduced in some parts of the network – which will improve punctuality, reliability and passenger experience.

‘The alternative is to ask passengers to pay more when they too are feeling the squeeze, or asking the taxpayer to contribute even more towards the running of the railway on top of the record amounts spent keeping trains running during the pandemic and with revenue still 20% down on pre-Covid levels. Neither of those options is fair.

‘Rather than going ahead with these counterproductive strikes, we ask the RMT’s leadership to continue talking so we can come to a deal that works for our people, our passengers and for taxpayers.’

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