RMT is planning ‘Extinction Rebellion-style’ strike action that will cause back-to-back summer travel chaos over jobs and wages – as one senior official puts it, the union is preparing for ‘civil disobedience’.
The railway union is voting more than 40,000 of its members on considerations to halt 15 rail services, including Govia Thameslink Railway, Avanti West Coast and West Midlands Trains.
RMT blamed Network Rail’s planned cut of at least 2,500 safety-critical maintenance jobs as part of a £2billion network savings – changes which bosses say will lead to “trains running off the tracks”.
It also targets rail operators seeking to freeze wages to tackle the lowest passenger numbers in more than 150 years.
Today, the union’s deputy general secretary, Eddie Dempsey, revealed that as well as a potential strike, members were also considering civil disobedience, reports The Telegraph.
Micky Lynch, general secretary of the RMT, has warned that its members are “extremely motivated” to say a “huge yes” when the polls close on May 24 – leading to potential action as early as June.
And government sources have warned that union officials could adopt Extinction Rebellion-style tactics of blocking the rail system.
Passengers wait for trains at Euston station in London ahead of the May Day bank holiday on Friday – amid planned engineering work and RMT strikes
The RMT votes over 40,000 of its members on considerations to halt 15 rail services, including Govia Thameslink Railway, Avanti West Coast and West Midlands Trains.
Commuters queue for the Tube at Waterloo station in London during the RMT strikes last month
Long queues at St Pancras International station in London on Thursday as a number of rail services were affected by planned engineering work and a 48-hour rail strike by the RMT union
TFL workers to be elected for industrial action in pension dispute
Transport workers in London are to be voted out for industrial action in a dispute over pensions.
Unite members employed at Transport for London (TfL) and the London Underground will vote in the coming weeks on whether to launch an industrial action campaign.
The union said workers had been told the value of their pensions would be reduced and a final pay scheme would end following a review requested by the central government in return for recovery funding. pandemic case.
Unite Regional Manager Simon McCartney said: “Our members are dedicated to getting London moving. Now they are told that they will be poorer in old age.
“It’s an appalling way to treat a loyal and committed workforce.
“Workers are voting for industrial action as a last resort. Despite repeated appeals to management, there have been no guarantees on retirements or job cuts.
“A strike would inevitably cause serious disruption to public transport throughout London.”
Unite members at TfL are spread across different parts of the organization including Dial-a Ride, London Underground and Croydon Trams.
The union said its members were also in dispute over wages and the threat of job losses.
Voting will close on May 26. If members vote for industrial action, strikes could begin in mid-June, although Unite said action would likely be coordinated with other unions who also have members at TfL.
A source told The Telegraph: ‘The spirit is mind blowing as the RMT turns into Extinction Rebellion and sticks to the tracks – could there be anything more counterproductive?’
“With the railway on life support, it should be of concern to all railway workers that their union leaders spoil a confrontation before there have even been any substantive discussions.”
Mr Dempsey was accused last month of harboring longstanding sympathies for pro-Putin separatists.
He shared glowing praise for Lugansk rebel Aleksey Mozgovoy in an obituary after his death in 2015, while Mr Dempsey even visited Ukraine’s Donbass region seven years ago – where he posed for a photo with the pro-Russian separatist commander.
Mr Dempsey is said to be on a package worth £108,549 as part of his RMT role. It breaks down into £78,282 gross salary, employers NI contributions of £9,978 with pension contributions of £20,289.
In the March issue of RMT News, he wrote: ‘The union is considering industrial action and even civil disobedience if necessary in order to alert members and the general public to the effects of the cuts to come.’
“If this continues, we must declare ourselves in conflict in order to defend our industry, defend our terms and conditions, defend our pensions and defend jobs.”
And in an address to a meeting of the Communications Workers Union’s annual conference on Monday, Mr Dempsey added: ‘We are going to try to create a culture of peaceful civil disobedience in this country.
“We need to come out with industry strategies to make sure every depot, every workplace, is a stronghold for the labor movement and people are ready to come out and stand up for their rights.”
With further summer travel chaos looming, Network Rail regional director Tim Shoveller said the operator ‘cannot continue to rely on government subsidies’.
He continued: “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 passenger demand have changed and the industry must also change.
“We cannot continue to rely on government subsidies, 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 staff.
“We are disappointed that the RMT has made this decision and urge them once again to work with us, not against us, as we build an affordable railway fit for the future.”
People wait for buses at Waterloo Station in London during a strike by Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union members last month
A sign at Paddington Station in London during a strike by RMT union members on March 3
Mr Shoveller added: ‘We would not consider any changes that would make the railway less safe.
But RMT general secretary Mr Lynch yesterday accused the government of ‘pouring political oil on the fire’ over the dispute.
He added: ‘The changes they seek to impose on railway workers would not be acceptable to any union worth their salt and they pose a fundamental danger to passenger safety.’
An RMT spokesperson continued: ‘RMT has at no time suggested that its members will stick to any train tracks during this dispute with Network Rail and the train operating companies.
“Rather than trying to mount anonymous scare stories in the media without any evidence, the government would be in a better position to stop its program of insane cuts it wants to unleash on the railways, endangering public safety and destroying livelihoods of railway workers.
“The RMT is focused on fighting the most draconian anti-union laws of any Western European country, to take legal industrial action in June, so that we can prevent the loss of 2,500 maintenance jobs critical to the safety and protect the safety of rail passengers on the network.’