Rail strikes: 48 hour walkouts on trains this week and over Christmas will go ahead
he RMT union has confirmed that two 48-hour rail strikes will take place this week after its members rejected Network Rail’s latest pay offer.
RMT, TSSA and Unite members who work for Network Rail, which owns and maintains the railways, as well as for 14 train companies will stage walkouts this week, firstly on Tuesday and Wednesday and then on Friday and Saturday.
Strikes from 6pm Christmas Eve until 6am on December 27 and into the new year also remain on, RMT confirmed on Monday.
Passengers have been advised to travel only if it is absolutely necessary and disruption is expected all week.
Trains will be busier and will likely start later and finish earlier, with roughly only 20 per cent of services operating, Network Rail said. There will be no services at all in some places.
Network Rail offered workers a 5 per cent pay rise this year and a 4 per cent rise in 2023.
Despite a guarantee of no compulsory job losses until January 2025, the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) executive recommended rejecting the offer, saying it was linked to “significant” changes to working practices.
The RMT said the pay offer was linked to thousands of job losses, a 50 per cent cut in scheduled maintenance tasks and a 30 per cent increase in unsocial hours.
The union said 63.6 per cent voted to reject the pay offer on an 83 per cent turnout. It shattered hopes of a major breakthrough in the rail dispute causing misery for passengers.
Planned strike action by members of Unite at Network Rail was called off earlier on Monday after they voted to accept the same pay offer.
General secretary Mick Lynch said: “This is a huge rejection of Network Rail’s substandard offer and shows that our members are determined to take further strike action in pursuit of a negotiated settlement.
“The Government is refusing to lift a finger to prevent these strikes and it is clear they want to make effective strike action illegal in Britain.
“We will resist that and our members, along with the entire trade union movement, will continue their campaign for a square deal for workers, decent pay increases and good working conditions.”
On December 13, 14, 16 and 17, a reduced service is planned to run along the East Coast Main Line – which connects London King’s Cross, Peterborough, Doncaster, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh – between 7.30am and 6.30pm.
During this period, services are likely to be extremely busy and subject to last minute cancellations, National Rail has warned commuters.
An extremely limited service across National Rail’s western route, including Penzance and London Paddington, is expected and there will be no train services west of Plymouth, including the whole of Cornwall.
There will be no services to Gloucester and a reduced service on the Elizabeth Line, affecting Paddington and Reading.
Strike action involving National Rail and the 14 train operating companies is also planned for January 3,4,6 and 7.
Andrew Haines, Chief Executive of Network Rail, said: “The RMT leadership needs to think long and hard about what to do next, further strike action will cause further misery for the rail industry and for their members who will lose pay.
“This news is especially frustrating, given that we learnt today that colleagues represented by Unite union have accepted the very same offer put to RMT members. The RMT are the outliers here, they need to stop playing politics and work with us to bring this dispute to an end.
“There is clearly a significant number of Network Rail colleagues who want this deal, but are caught up by these needless strikes and collective bargaining. Our offer, which is worth over 9%, with a guarantee of compulsory redundancies and no changes to anyone’s terms and conditions remains on the table. Our railway still faces a real financial crisis and because of that, we will continue with the consultation around the implementation of the maintenance reforms.
“Sadly, with strikes now set to go ahead, passengers can expect to see widespread rail disruption throughout the week. We will continue to work closely with operators to run as many services as possible but we continue to ask passengers to only travel if absolutely necessary.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson, said: “The Government helped facilitate a fair and improved offer, delivering a pay increase more generous than those in the private sector and guaranteeing no compulsory redundancies.
“The significant proportion of RMT members who voted to accept this, despite being instructed not to, clearly recognised that. Unite members have accepted the very same offer and the TSSA leadership has also recommended its members to accept it.
“There is clearly an appetite amongst the workers themselves to strike a deal, which is what makes this result even more frustrating.
“The Government has played its part in trying to resolve this dispute and it’s time for unions to play theirs. That’s not only what passengers and the public want, but clearly what a lot of rail workers want as well.”