Wigan trade union members back railway workers set to strike

Retired trade union members in Wigan have supported a strike by railway workers, which threatens to bring massive disruption to the network.
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Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Network Rail and 15 train operators voted overwhelmingly to strike in a dispute over jobs, pay and conditions.

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The Government and rail industry criticised the move, calling it “hugely disappointing and premature”, and warning the action could affect the rail industry’s recovery from the damage caused by coronavirus.

A strike could bring huge parts of the railway network to a standstillA strike could bring huge parts of the railway network to a standstill
A strike could bring huge parts of the railway network to a standstill
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But it has been supported by retired members of Unison’s Wigan branch.

Unison’s retired members’ secretary Carol Coltman said: “The brilliant and successful result of the ballot for industrial action by RMT members to challenge the detrimental changes to workers’ conditions of service, job losses and health and safety is great news.

"Our Unison retired members supported the successful Keep the Guard on the Train dispute. We may be retired from work, but we have not retired from our union, and we know that solidarity across all unions can win. So, we will be supporting the RMT dispute in whatever way we can. A win for them not only helps us as older travellers, but secures the jobs of thousands of railway workers and the safety of all rail travellers.”

The RMT’s leaders will now decide when to call strikes, which could bring huge parts of the network to a standstill.

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RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “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 union says Network Rail intends to cut at least 2,500 maintenance jobs as part of a £2 billion reduction in spending on the network, while staff at train companies have been subject to pay freezes, threats to jobs and attacks on their terms and conditions.

Andrew Haines, Network Rail’s chief executive, said: “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 trade unions.

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“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.

“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.”