The biggest railway strike in years moved a step closer after staff working for 15 train operators voted to take industrial action in a row over jobs, pay and conditions.
Members of the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union who work for operators including LNER, Northern, TransPennine and CrossCountry voted to back industrial action in the coming weeks. A strike date has yet to be confirmed, but mid-June is likely, unless the two sides agree on a deal.
The RMT says the vote to strike was the biggest endorsement for industrial actions on the rail network since it was privatised in the 1990s. There is still hope an agreement can be made to avoid the shutdown.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Today’s overwhelming endorsement by railway workers is a vindication of the union’s approach and sends a clear message that members want a decent pay rise, job security and no compulsory redundancies."
When is the rail strike going to happen?
A date has not been set yet for the rail strike, but the RMT has said it is working to a timetable to strike from "mid-June". Trade unions are required to submit two-weeks notice before a strike, so there will be 14 days between confirming a date and the strike itself.
Why are railway workers striking?
The union says Network Rail intends to cut at least 2,500 maintenance jobs as part of a £2 billion reduction in spending on the network, while staff at train companies have been subject to pay freezes, threats to jobs and attacks on their terms and conditions.
Of the more than 40,000 asked about strike action by RMT, 71% took part in the vote with 89% voting in favour of strike action and 11% voting against.
Which lines and trains will be affected by the strike?
Workers employed by 15 of the UK's biggest rail operators have agreed to strike. If the industrial action goes ahead, expect every line to be affected.
Staff working for Network Rail, Chiltern Railways, Cross Country Trains, Greater Anglia, LNER, East Midlands Railway, c2c, Great Western Railway, Northern Trains, South Eastern, South Western Railway, Transpennine Express, Avanti West Coast and West Midlands Trains voted for the industrial action.
Will any trains run if there is a strike?
Expect a hugely reduced service on the day of the strike, as it will be the largest in decades on the railway if it goes ahead. Trains could run to a limited timetable, such as 7am to 7pm and on mainlines only. Services could be reduced to around a fifth of the usual timetable. PA News says strikes would cost the rail industry around £30m each day.
Can the strike be avoided?
There is hope that talks could see the strike taken off the table. Both sides indicated there is room for discussion and hope to ultimately avoid a strike.
RMT Secretary Mr Lynch said: “Our NEC will now meet to discuss a timetable for strike action from mid-June, but we sincerely hope ministers will encourage the employers to return to the negotiating table and hammer out a reasonable settlement with the RMT.”
Andrew Haines, Network Rail’s chief executive, said: “The RMT has jumped the gun here as everyone loses if there’s a strike. We know our people are concerned about job security and pay. As a public body we have been working on offering a pay increase that taxpayers can afford, and we continue to discuss this with our trade unions.
“We urge the RMT to sit down with us and continue to talk, not walk, so that we can find a compromise and avoid damaging industrial action.
“We are at a key point in the railway’s recovery from the pandemic. The taxpayer has provided the industry with £16 billion worth of additional life support over the last two years and that cannot continue.
“Any industrial action now would be disastrous for our industry’s recovery and would hugely impact vital supply and freight chains. It would also serve to undermine our collective ability to afford the pay increases we want to make.”