On Wednesday, July 27, as many as 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union who work for train companies and Network Rail will strike for 24 hours. Two other rail unions are also considering when to walk similar action.
After rejecting a new offer from Network Rail that they called “paltry,” union leaders made the announcement. Tuesday saw a 4 percent pay increase offered by the state-owned company that manages Great Britain’s rail network and the majority of its major stations. If employees accept changes to working conditions, a further 4 percent pay increase could be offered in 2023.
The RMT, however, claimed that these were “attacks on their terms and conditions.” The union claimed that the train operating companies had not yet made it a pay offer or given it any assurances regarding job losses.
Although Greater Anglia and TransPennine Express workers did not meet the required turnout for strike action, the smaller Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association reported on Wednesday that its employees at train operator Great Western Railway had voted for strike action.
RMT members organized three days of strikes in late June, which effectively shut down a large portion of the British network. Due to the increase in people working from home during the pandemic, commuter rail traffic is typically busier on the day of the new planned midweek strike. Additionally, it coincides with the beginning of summer vacation and the start of the school year. According to Network Rail and the government, this could have an impact on the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Birmingham the following day.
Relationships between unions and the government are at an all-dispute low, and workers from barristers to cleaners to teachers are considering taking widespread industrial action. Following strikes by employees at 114 crown post offices on Monday, workers who supply cash and supplies to sub-post offices are scheduled to go on their second 24-hour strike on Thursday in protest of pay.
The controversial plans by the Conservative government to permit employers to substitute agency workers for workers on strike are also moving forward.
The RMT “opted for more destructive strikes and is hellbent on causing further misery for people across the country,” according to Grant Shapps, the UK’s transport secretary.
Shapps stated that “negotiations over the past few weeks have been merely for show” and that the RMT “risks pulling the plug for good” on the industry.
In light of talk of coordinated walkouts, the RMT declared that it would speak with other unions that have given mandates for strike action in the upcoming days.
Aslef, the drivers’ union, has recently received support for strike action from its members. After drivers at eight train operating companies decided to strike over pay, Aslef officials are scheduled to meet on Thursday to set strike dates.
The general secretary of the RMT, Mick Lynch, blasted “stubborn” train operating companies for refusing to increase pay offers and declared that the only offer left to the union was to go on strike in order to convey to the government and rail industry that the dispute would go on for as long as necessary until a negotiated action.
The negligible amount is contingent on RMT members accepting significant changes to their working lives, and the offer from Network Rail represents a real-terms pay cut for our members.
Lynch claimed that Network Rail and the train operating companies were “shackled” by the government. The RMT claims that before making concessions in negotiations, Network Rail negotiators had regular contact with government representatives. Lynch stated that the union was still available for further discussion.
Network Rail’s CEO, Andrew Haines, referred to the strikes as “incredibly frustrating.” We’ve been very clear that we can only pay for an increase out of our own budgets, and the only way we can do that is by modernizing working procedures, he said.
Strikes “will cause more misery for millions” and worsen the industry’s finances, according to a representative of the Rail Delivery Group, which advocates for train companies.