Railway workers vote overwhelmingly in favor of the national strike | Rail transport

A summer of rail strikes across Britain reached a milestone after the RMT union announced an ‘overwhelming’ vote for industrial action.

Its polls of more than 40,000 railway workers closed on Tuesday evening, and 89% voted in favor of a strike, the RMT said, out of a turnout of 71%.

The votes took place at 15 rail operating companies and mostly include Network Rail, whose flagmen could stop the rail if they step out. The RMT said it was the biggest endorsement of industrial action by railway workers since privatization.

However, the union is unlikely to call strikes immediately but will use the mandate to strengthen its hand in talks with Network Rail and the rail companies as it seeks to mitigate the effect of a significant cost cut on the railway.

Wages have been frozen since 2020 for most workers and the union has warned that 2,500 jobs could be lost as Network Rail seeks to save more than £100million a year by reforming maintenance work.

Industry bosses have called for negotiations to continue, saying a strike would cost the industry around £30m a day, when revenues are already well below pre-Covid levels.

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines said the union had “taken the leap” and strikes would be disastrous for the rail’s recovery, while hugely affecting vital supply and freight chains.

He added: “We know that our employees are concerned about job security and wages. As a public agency, we strive to provide a wage increase that taxpayers can afford, and we continue to discuss this with our unions.

“The taxpayer has provided the industry with £16billion in extra life support over the past two years and it cannot continue. Travel habits have changed forever and the railway must also change to adapt to this new reality.

Mick Lynch, General Secretary of the RMT, said: “The overwhelming endorsement from railway workers today is vindication of the union’s approach and sends a clear message that members want a decent pay rise, job security employment and no compulsory dismissals.

“Our NEC will now meet to discuss a strike timetable from mid-June, but we sincerely hope ministers will encourage employers to return to the negotiating table and find a reasonable settlement.”

Staff from all but the Isle of Wight’s Island line voted for industrial action, although staff from one of the largest suburban networks, GTR, which includes Southern and Thameslink, only voted for action without a strike.

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