The 24-hour walkout by Network Rail workers, train operators and station staff on July 27 will have a direct effect on the train services in England, Scotland, and Wales. In London, tubes and buses will also be disrupted.
The walkout is over pay and job conditions. Railway workers are not satisfied with their job security and working conditions. They are staging the strike to secure an adequate pay rise.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) at 14 operating companies have organised the strike to show the government that they want a better income and they want the government to investigate their pay rise. Network Rail says its latest offer is worth more than 5%, but this depends on workers accepting “modernisation”.
However, the RMT, which represents rail workers, says this is a “paltry sum” and represents a real terms pay cut.
As a result of the cost of living crisis, railway workers held a demonstration to ask for a pay rise. The RMT says Network Rail plans to cut 2,500 maintenance jobs as it tries to save £ 2bn over the next two years.
The union insists those jobs are “safety critical”. Network Rail says there would be no more than 2000 job losses and that all redundancies can be voluntary. It says it would not consider any changes that would make the railways less safe. ScotRail also threatened a strike as the union rejected a 5% pay offer.
Railway workers have not had a pay rise in 2019. The government says the railway system needs modernisation and has to be financially sustainable in the long run.
It says £16bn of taxpayers’ money was used to support the railways during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, with passenger numbers still down by one-fifth, it says changes are needed.
Why Are Railway Workers Striking?
The RMT Union General Secretary Mick Lynch said: “Members are more determined than ever to secure a decent pay rise, job security, and good working conditions.”
Over 40,000 railway workers will be taking part in this strike action, which will create great disruptions in the UK transport network.
Members of the RMT at Network Rail and 14 train companies are planning the strike after union leaders rejected a “paltry” 4 % pay rise offer from Network Rail for the rest of the year, and a potential 4% rise in 2023 if staff accepted changes to their contracts.
The RMT has said that the offer from Network Rail represents a “real terms pay cut” for its members. In fact, railway workers need more job security and better working conditions.
“Network Rail has not made any improvement on their previous pay offer and the train companies have not offered us anything new”, said the RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch. “The government needs to stop their interference in this dispute so the rail employers can come to a negotiated settlement with us.”
The strike is over a 4% pay offer. Railway workers have been asked to accept a 4 % rise for the remainder of 2022 from Network Rail, and a possible 4% next year if workers accept changes to their working conditions.
The strike coincides with a school holiday and Network Rail and the government say it could also affect the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
After the strike announcement, Network Rail accused the union of “walking away” from talks and said the action could have been avoided. “It’s now abundantly clear that their political campaign is taking precedent over representing their members’ interests,” said Tim Shoveller, Network Rail’s lead negotiator.
The Conservative Government is also pushing ahead with plans to allow companies to replace striking employees with agency workers.
The latest railway strikes come as wider industrial action is considered across the public sector as workers’ demand pay rises amid the soaring cost of living.
Thousands of Royal Mail workers also voted to strike in August. Barristers in England and Wales staged a five-day strike earlier this month, and about 40,000 RMT members, including Network Rail signalers and train operators, will strike for two further days on 18 and 20 August.
The Conservative leadership contender, Liz Truss, has promised a further crackdown on trade unions, which has been criticised as the “biggest attack on civil rights” since the 19th century.
The Outcome of the Rail Strike
Only one in five trains will be running during the strike and passengers will be facing long delays.
“Essentially, the unions do not want to modernise the work practices so we can run a modern railway,” Transport Minister Grant Shapps said on Sky TV. “The unions have been incredibly militant about this.”
The railway strike will also affect the London underground. Network Rail says people should “only travel if necessary” and if so, to carefully plan their trip by checking online beforehand.
All major routes will have some services but there will be long gaps between trains and it may be impractical to travel out and back on the same day over longer distances.
For example, the last train from London King cross to Edinburgh will depart at 2 pm instead of 8:30 pm on a normal weekday. Tickets will be valid up to August 2 for those who choose not to take the risk.
From the beginning of the lockdown, some people have been working online. But this is not possible for all workers. Manual workers, for instance, cannot stay at home and have online jobs. They have to go to work every day. So the lack of trains will force them to use the bus or their own cars. Under certain circumstances, some employees will be unable to go to work and will miss a workday. This affects mainly the working classes.
Railway workers need a pay rise like other groups of workers to manage the cost of living crisis and pay their bills.
The government supported the train network during the lockdown, but there has been a drop in the number of people travelling by train as many are working from their homes; the railway budget has faced shortages and the railways cannot fulfil their obligations.