National rail strike on the horizon as dispute intensifies

National rail strike on the horizon as dispute intensifies

Image: Network Rail

As the dispute between the RMT union and Network Rail over pay and jobs continues to escalate, the likelihood of a 24-hour strike by rail workers over the next bank holiday period is a distinct possibility, and one that would bring with it the potential to cause major disruption to passenger and freight services.

RMT has announced that members will be taking strike action, and action short of a strike, over a 24-hour period from 5.00pm on Monday 25th May.  The UK’s largest rail union has confirmed that the impact of the action will build up over the Bank Holiday and would be in full effect by the start of the following working day.

If the first UK-wide rail strike in 20 years goes ahead it will see RMT members stop work on a day which is traditionally one of the busiest for the rail network.

In a statement earlier today, RMT General Secretary, Mick Cash, commented: “Our members have decisively rejected the pay package offered by Network Rail and the failure of the company to make any moves whatsoever in light of the overwhelming vote in the ballot has left us with no option but to move to a rolling programme of industrial action.

"We have a massive mandate for action which shows the anger of safety-critical staff across the rail network at attacks on their standards of living and their job security.  It is appalling that NR are refusing point blank to take this dispute seriously, to understand the deep-seated grievance felt by their staff and to come forward with a renewed offer which protects pay, jobs and safety.”

In response, Mark Carne, Network Rail’s Chief Executive, said: “This strike is deliberately timed to cause maximum disruption to families trying to enjoy the half-term break and millions more returning to work after the bank holiday.  I find it deplorable that the RMT can hold the travelling public to ransom in this way.

“This week we have been talking to ACAS to try to get the RMT back around the table.  The public knows only too well that our railway must improve.  We want to work with the unions so that we can reward our staff through improved productivity.”

“The RMT say we can afford more than what’s on offer.  What they don’t say is that Network Rail is a public service body and that all profits are reinvested in building a bigger, better, more reliable railway.  Any pay increase comes from the pockets of taxpayers and fare paying passengers.”

The newly reappointed Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin MP, has also been quick to denounce the planned action by RMT members, stating that Network Rail had made a “fair offer”.  He also pointed out that the union would not be thanked for causing “unnecessary disruption”.