20/05/2004

Network Rail staff vote for strike action

Members of the Rail, Maritime & Transport (RMT) union at Network Rail have today voted to take industrial action.

The move is in response to members' concerns over pensions, two-tier travel concessions and pay.

Following the poll, the RMT executive committee will now meet to decide what form that industrial action will take after consulting with local representatives. Any action could also include a move to co-ordinate with London Underground members who are currently being balloted over pay and conditions.

There were 2,947 members (58%) pro-industrial action, with 2,246 (42%) against – the turn out for the vote was 68%.

Network Rail has expressed its "disappointment", and said that any potential strike would be "deeply damaging to both passengers and the country as a whole".

The company also said that the size of the RMT vote was far from representative of the majority of Network Rail staff.

With less than half of Network Rail’s operations and maintenance employees in the RMT union, and only 38% of RMT members voting for strike action, this means that less than one-in-five of Network Rail’s operations and maintenance employees have supported this strike action, the company said.

Chief Executive John Armitt said that the board would do it could to avert a strike.

“The result should come as no surprise as the RMT has failed to fully inform its members of the facts about the offers we have made. This news is a damaging blow to passengers and the country as a whole. This is a pointless and unnecessary dispute. Despite our best efforts to communicate the true facts to our employees the RMT’s campaign of misinformation has proved successful."

However, RMT general secretary Bob Crow slammed the Network Rail bosses for awarding themselves "telephone-number bonuses", and overlooking the grievances of ordinary workers.

He added: "Without a word of negotiation they have closed a decent pension scheme and imposed a cheaper, inferior scheme no better than a glorified savings plan.

"They have refused point-blank to discuss the two-tier conditions on travel facilities, and they have told us there is no room for further discussion on pay, and then pretended to be surprised when the talks broke down.

"Our members have made it clear that their pensions are not an optional luxury that can be cut to help boost the bosses’ bonus fund."

Mr Crow said that the union remained ready to talk, but warned Network Rail bosses that they have would to enter serious negotiations to resolve the issue.

Network Rail said that it would endeavour to run as many train services as possible during any strike, although plans cannot be finalised or released until closer to the day of any potential strike action in order to gauge the numbers of key staff available.

(gmcg)

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