Travel chaos looms as railway workers vote overwhelmingly for national strike

A nationwide railway strike has been voted in a move that threatens travel chaos and could see all trains canceled after 7pm.

The RMT union announced on Tuesday evening that its 40,000 members, across Network Rail and 13 out of 15 train operators, had voted overwhelmingly in favor of industrial action in a dispute over pay and working conditions.

These were Chiltern Railways, Cross Country Trains, Greater Anglia, LNER, East Midlands Railway, c2c, Great Western Railway, Northern Trains, South Eastern Railway, South Western Railway, TransPennine Express, Avanti West Coast and West Midlands Trains.

Members of Govia Thameslink (including Gatwick Express) voted against strikes but in favor of other forms of industrial action, while workers on the Isle of Wight’s Island Line (where the union has 30 members) rejected all forms of industrial action.

Union bosses will now decide when to call strikes – which could begin in just two weeks – which will cripple the rail network.

This means that the railways will only be able to open 12 hours a day, instead of 24 hours. Services would operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., sources told The Telegraph.

Up to 80% of routes would be axed, with those that remain open offering reduced service.

The union said it was the biggest endorsement of industrial action by railway workers since privatisation, and would be the biggest railway strike since Margaret Thatcher was in power .

A total of 71% of those polled took part in the vote, of which 89% voted in favor of the strike and only 11% voted against.

The union will now demand urgent talks with Network Rail and the 15 rail operating companies.

“Members want a decent pay rise, job security and no mandatory layoffs”

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

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

The train signallers’ decision to strike, the first since the spring of 1998, was decisive.

There are around 5,000 train signallers employed by Network Rail and they play a key role in allowing trains to depart and arrive at stations.

It takes between six and eight months to train a signaller, and the emergency manpower only numbers in the hundreds.

Sources said main lines and suburban networks around major cities would prove the most resilient, as stations in these areas tend to have more up-to-date technology. Many rural and regional stations still rely on Victorian signaling technology.

“All disputes must end in settlement”

Mr Lynch said earlier on Tuesday that the disruption could continue into next year.

“If there is no settlement, then there will be. All disputes must end in settlement and we are prepared to negotiate that with these employers,” he told TalkTV.

He had previously warned that a strike would “bring the country to a standstill”.

Strike plans are already underway for Transport for London (TfL) staff. As many as 4,000 station workers will strike on Monday June 6 and the union has announced a ban on overtime from June 3 until July 10, which will significantly reduce London Underground services.

The industrial action will likely force the closure of nearly all Zone 1 stations on what will be the first day back to work after the four-day Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

If all 4,000 members choose to strike, TfL may have to consider closing all Tube stations for safety reasons.

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “Strikes should always be the last resort, not the first, so it is extremely disappointing and premature that the RMT is calling for industrial action before even entering into discussions.

“Taxpayers across the country have contributed £16billion to keep our railways running through the pandemic while ensuring that no worker loses their job.

“The railway is still on life support, with a 25% drop in passenger numbers, and anything that takes it further away risks killing services and jobs. Rail travel for millions more people is now a choice, not a necessity Strikes are stopping our customers choosing rail, and they may never come back.

“We urge the RMT to reconsider and accept the invitation to industry talks, so that we can find a solution that benefits workers, passengers and taxpayers.”

Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, had again urged the unions on Tuesday to call off the planned strikes. “I am looking to solve this problem, I want the unions to do it too, I urge them not to go on strike,” he said.

“I think that would be completely counterproductive for a railroad that is frankly on life support and could give him a heart attack.”

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