Published: 16th May 2015
The Rail Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) has balloted its members in Network Rail (NR) over the signalling modernisation plan and says it has received a mandate for industrial action from its members.
The RMT has called a 48 hour strike and banned overtime and call-outs to signal and points failures in support of their ‘Rates of pay and conditions of service’ dispute with NR.
RMT members working in Network Rail Operations and Maintenance have been instructed not to report for duty between 17. 00 hours Monday 25th May 2015 until 16.59 hours Tuesday 26th May 2015.
In addition to this, the Union has instructed members that between 00.01 hours Monday 25th May 2015 until 23.59 hours Tuesday 26th May 2015, not to work any overtime, extended shifts or to respond to any callouts.
General Secretary of the RMT Mick Cash wrote to his members: Firstly I would like to congratulate you all for the magnificent support you have shown for your union by returning a massive vote for strike action and action short of a strike. Despite this decisive vote by its staff, there has been complete silence from Network Rail.
According to the RMT, the dispute is about fair pay and job security. The NR pay offer would see their members’ pay lag behind the rate of inflation and they have refused to extend the No Compulsory Redundancy for the last two years of the deal according to the union.
The RMT says that ‘We all know that Network Rail are determined to cut costs and Signallers and Maintenance staff will be incredibly vulnerable in the coming years, as the new Tory Government will be putting them under even greater pressure to make savage cuts.’ Network Rail made a £1.2 billion profit last year, double the previous year, and we believe you deserve fair reward for the hard work and long unsociable hours you do to keep the network running.
“We demand nothing less than a substantially improved offer and hope the company will see sense and table an improvement. We will continue to seek talks with the company to resolve the dispute and I will keep members fully informed of developments.”
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin “condemns industrial action that will disrupt rail journeys. Network Rail has been entirely reasonable and put a fair offer on the table and has sought further talks with the unions. Rail passengers will not thank the unions for inflicting this chaos and disruption” he said.
Mark Carne, Network Rail chief executive, said: “The railways are a vital public service and industrial action would have a massive impact on millions of passengers as well as freight distribution across Britain. It cannot be right that the unions can hold the country to ransom in this way.
Our employees have received pay rises eight times higher than other public sector workers over the last four years and have now been offered a deal for the next four years that is unmatched elsewhere.
“Despite the very clear need to modernise our railways, we have offered a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies for the next two years. The unions have also rejected a number of proposals that would boost productivity, removing our ability to offer them more.
“We will do everything we can to keep our railways moving during these times of uncertainty and to stop the RMT from behaving in a way that will cause untold misery to our passengers and will hurt the economy. Fewer than half of RMT members at Network Rail have voted in favour of strike action and we urge union leaders to come back to the table for further discussions.”
“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.
“We are pleased that discussions with the RMT are set to resume next week. 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.”
On the issue of Network Rail’s ‘profits’, Mr. Carne continued: “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.”
Around 25,000 NR staff working across maintenance, operations, administrative and corporate functions, as well as controllers are involved.
Network Rail says that it has offered a lump sum payment in 2015 of £500 plus pay increases matching RPI in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and a guarantee that if RPI falls below zero, their pay will not fall. An extension of the ‘no compulsory redundancy’ agreement to 2015 and 2016. There is also a commitment to long-term job security through retraining and redeployment from 2017 onwards for any of those people who want to stay at Network Rail.
The effect of the industrial action if it takes place will vary by route depending on signaling systems and staff not working as instructed by the RMT. Train companies have agreed to put in place special, but complicated ticketing arrangements to make it easier for passengers to travel should the industrial action go ahead. These need to be carefully checked and Season Ticket holders will be entitled to compensation but all ticketing arrangements will vary by train company.
The massive rail investment underway could well be threatened by the industrial action. This is because the associated engineering works may well be affected as engineering trains will not be able to run without signallers or local operations staff working normally. These carry track and ballast as the ballast tamping and track-laying trains may not be able to operate as planned.
Part of this investment is to create huge regional signalling and operations centres which will bring the closure of many signalboxes and potentially, staff reductions.
This investment has been brought about by successive Governments supporting the growth in rail and the RMT does not seem to want to acknowledge this fact!