Commuter chaos looming: Strike to bring rail service to ‘standstill’

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Rail passengers across the south have been warned that services will be at a “standstill” the morning after the Bank Holiday due to a strike by Network Rail workers.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union will walk out from 5pm on Monday May 25.

The workers, including signallers and maintenance staff, will also ban overtime for 48 hours on the Bank Holiday Monday and Tuesday.

The union said services will be hit from the Monday but warned that the biggest impact will be on the Tuesday.

An official said:“Services will be at a standstill.”

The strike announcement follows a huge 4-1 vote for action from RMT members, well above a planned threshold being brought in by the new Government. The action poses the first big industrial relations test for the Conservatives.

The RMT said it has rejected the latest Network Rail (NR) pay proposals as falling “well short” of what is required to maintain the living standards, job security and working conditions for nearly 16,000 staff across NR operations and maintenance.

Union members have rejected a four-year deal worth £500 this year and three years of increases matching RPI inflation as well as a no-compulsory-redundancy commitment to December 2016.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Our members have decisively rejected the pay package offered by Network Rail and the failure of the company to make any moves whatsoever in light of the overwhelming vote in the ballot has left us with no option but to move to a rolling programme of industrial action.

“We have a massive mandate for action which shows the anger of safety-critical staff across the rail network at attacks on their standards of living and their job security.

“It is appalling that NR are refusing point-blank to take this dispute seriously, to understand the deep-seated grievance felt by their staff and to come forward with a renewed offer which protects pay, jobs and safety.

“We have made it clear that as far as RMT Is concerned, the one-off, non-consolidated, lump sum payment this year is wholly inadequate and fails to recognise the massive pressures staff are working under to keep services running safely at a time when the company is generating profits of £1 billion.

“It is our members battling to keep Britain moving around the clock and they deserve a fair share from Network Rail for their incredible efforts.

“In addition, we are extremely concerned that the no-compulsory-redundancy commitment only applies to the first two years of the four-year deal.

“RMT is in no doubt that this leaves operations and maintenance members extremely vulnerable, especially with the continued development of rail operating centres and the ongoing cuts programme at Network Rail.

The strike will affect football fans leaving Wembley after the Championship play-off final, which kicks off at 3pm on bank holiday Monday.

There is a programme of Network Rail engineering work being conducted over the bank holiday weekend.

This is seriously disrupting the rail travel plans of fans of Preston North End and Swindon Town, whose teams meet in the League One play-off final at Wembley on Sunday May 24.

Mr Cash continued: “Our rail staff deserve a fair reward for the high-pressure, safety-critical work that they undertake day and night and the last thing that we need is a demoralised, burnt-out workforce living in fear for their futures and the message has come back loud and clear that that is exactly how they feel about the current offer from Network Rail.

“RMT remains available for talks and we hope that the company will appreciate the anger amongst staff at the current offer on pay and conditions from Network Rail and that they will agree to our call to come back to the table with an improved package.

“We expect rock-solid support for this action and will be taking a new campaign to the public under the banner Our Jobs - Your Safety, as we build support for the fight to stop this attack on a workforce whose core role is to deliver a safe railway to the British people.”

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