Railway strike could see Berkshire train passengers face travel chaos this summer
Rail services in Berkshire could be disrupted as the ‘biggest rail strike in modern history’ could take place this summer. More than 40,000 railway workers must vote for strike action in disputes over jobs and wages, it was announced on Wednesday.
The Railway, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) has said a yes vote among its members could lead to the biggest railway strike in modern history. The union said Network Rail planned to cut at least 2,500 safety-critical maintenance jobs as part of a £2billion cut in spending on the network, while train operator workers were subjected to salary freezes and changes to their terms and conditions.
Voting opens April 26 and closes May 24, so the strike could begin in June. RMT members working for Great Western Railway, which serves Reading, Slough, Newbury and other Berkshire destinations, will be among those asked to vote for industrial action.
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CrossCountry, which offers trains from Reading to Oxford and destinations in the Midlands and North West, and South Western Railway, which serves Bracknell, Wokingham and other towns, will also be voted on. Elsewhere in the country, voting will be among RMT members on Network Rail and Chiltern Railways, Greater Anglia, LNER, East Midlands Railway, c2c, Northern Trains, South Eastern Railway, Island Line, GTR (including Gatwick Express), Transpennine Express , Avanti West Coast and West Midlands Trains.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Railway workers have faced wage freezes, the prospect of losing their jobs and repeated attacks on their terms and conditions. Cutting 2,500 safety-critical Network Rail jobs will spell disaster for the public, make accidents more likely and increase the possibility of trains running off the tracks.
“Railway operating companies praised our members for being key workers during the pandemic, but refused to keep staff pay in line with inflation and the soaring cost of living. As a result, thousands of railway workers saw their standard of living plummet and lost patience.
“The way for unions to effectively tackle the cost of living crisis is to defend their members at work and take industrial action when employers are not moved by the force of a reasoned argument. A national railway strike will cripple the country, but the livelihoods of our members and the safety of passengers are our priorities.
Network Rail Regional Director Tim Shoveller said: “Our railway has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, and although passenger numbers are starting to recover, we know that travel habits and the Passenger demand has changed and the industry must also change. We cannot continue to rely on government handouts, so we must work with rail operators and our unions to save millions of pounds and deliver a more efficient railway.
“Our modernization program aims to build a sustainable future that benefits passengers and creates better and safer jobs for our employees. We are disappointed that the RMT has made this decision and again urge them to work with us, not against us, as we build an affordable and future-proof railway.
A Rail Delivery Group spokesperson said: “The pandemic has been an unprecedented shock to the railway, with the lowest passenger numbers for over 150 years and record levels of public funding to keep it going. service. Our main objective now should be to ensure a prosperous future for rail which adapts to new modes of travel and takes only its fair share of taxpayers, instead of organizing premature industrial action which would disrupt the lives of passengers and would jeopardize the recovery of the industry. For the benefit of our employees and everyone who depends on our railway on a daily basis, we want the RMT to work with us to update the way we run our services so that they are more reliable, more affordable and inspire more passengers on board. .”
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