Local rail strike is signalled

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WIGAN commuters face rail strike disruption after station, signalling and train crew staff backed proposed industrial action in a ballot called over fears of the workforce being casualised.

But bosses at Northern Rail – which provides the town’s train connections with Manchester, Warrington, Liverpool and Bolton – have made no attempt to hide their disappointment in the result and called on personnel to reconsider, saying the casualisation claim is untrue.

The Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union has described the ballot result as a tribute to its members because it had been achieved despite what they claim was a campaign of lies and dirty tricks by train bosses in York.

Staff have voted to take strike action in an increasingly bitter dispute over the casualisation of core rail work against the background of a claims and counter claims by company managers “designed to interfere in the internal balloting process.”

The union claimed today that staff had faced bullying throughout the balloting period along with a “barrage of totally false propaganda.”

RMT members have voted by almost 58 per cent to support strike action and the timing is now set to be considered by the union’s executive.

The dispute is over a growing move to casualise rail functions through the use of agencies at the expense, said the union, of permanent jobs and negotiated pay and working conditions.

The RMT said that claims by Northern that it was only trialling the use of casual staff had been shown to be false as, over a period of time, it had escalated the use of agency workers into core areas of operation. This, claims the union, is because the train company is using them to undercut pay and conditions.

A spokesman for Wigan RMT branch said: “It is a tribute to our members that despite an unprecedented campaign of individual pressure through a highly-resourced campaign of intimidation by the company they have stood firm and voted for action.

“Members are angry that instead of sitting down with the union, management have resorted to a campaign of smears and personal attacks in a desperate attempt to influence the outcome of this secret trade union ballot.

“With this mandate secured there is no excuse for the company to continue to refuse to enter meaningful talks.”

The HR Director for Northern Rail said it would inform passengers on strike action when it had confirmation.

Adrian Thompson said: “We are disappointed that RMT Northern members have voted in favour of strike action, but note that only just over one third of members voted yes while 63 per cent of members voted no or abstained.

“The RMT claims that we are ‘casualising the workforce’ or replacing permanent employees with agency are completely unfounded and untrue.”