Members of the rail union RMT voted 8:1 in favor of strike action over jobs, wages and conditions. The union said officials were discussing a “timetable for strike action from mid-June”. So what could happen? What could be the effect? And what other disputes are going on?

These are the key questions and answers.

What is this dispute?

Britain’s biggest rail union, RMT, is threatening industrial action at both Network Rail and 15 train operators over pay, redundancies and demands “to ensure there will be no adverse changes for working methods”.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Members want decent pay raises, job security and no forced redundancies.”

When can strikes start?

Trade unions must give at least 14 days notice of industrial action. The earliest possible date for a possible strike to start is June 8, which would require notice to be given by Wednesday, May 25,

RMT said: “Our NEC [National Executive Committee] will now meet to discuss the timetable for strike action from mid-June. ”

To what extent are the majority in favor of standing out?

Of those 71% who were eligible to vote, 89% supported strike action – representing 63% of the voting workforce and more than 25,000 workers.

The union called it “the biggest endorsement of industrial action by railway workers since privatization”.

Support for strike action appears to be fairly evenly distributed among workers for railway and train operators.

Just to remind me of Network Rail and the train operators…

Network Rail is the infrastructure provider. The people who play the most important role in the daily operation of the railway are the signers, about 5,000 people.

The train operator is assigned a patch of the network to run the train.

Which train operators are affected?

Those to whom RMT members voted in favor of strike action were:

  • Avanti . West Coast
  • c2c
  • Chiltern Railway
  • Transnational
  • East Midlands Railway
  • Greater Anglia
  • GWR
  • MEAL
  • Northern
  • South East
  • Southwest Railway
  • TransPennine Express
  • West Midlands Trains (including North West London Railway)

One train operator whose strike votes were too low to cross the threshold was GTR, which runs Southern, Thameslink, Gatwick Express and Great Northern.

Will a strike be called for train operators and Network Rail simultaneously?

It seems likely. RMT spoke of the prospect of the biggest national strike since privatization in the mid-1990s

Will it be an indefinite strike?

No possibility. The trend over the past few years in rail disputes has been for a series of 24-hour strikes. That limits the financial damage to striking workers, but still causes widespread disruption.

There are a few exceptions, such as the Southwest Railroad strike in December 2019, in which RMT members took industrial action for nearly a month to dispute the role of guarantor. guard. The train operator was running about half of its normal services.

What are the effects of a 24-hour strike?

Assuming all Network Rail signatories go on strike, management should be able to cover about 20% of the network for about 12 hours a day. It is likely that only major lines will be served, mainly those from London:

  • West Coast Main Line to Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool
  • East Coast Main Line to Leeds, York and Newcastle
  • GWR to Bristol and Cardiff

In addition, important commuter routes to London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds will remain the same.

But there will be strict limits on how much traffic alternative signers can handle.

On many lines, there are no trains running at all.

Even on signal lines, a worker strike against train operators could mean less than one train in five runs.

Economic losses are estimated at £30 million per day.

How will passengers respond?

Rail travel habits have fundamentally changed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with many former commuters able to work from home. For them, the strikes will be irrelevant.

Key workers who must be present in the workplace – from health service workers to teachers to hotel staff – will be hit hard.

The move from rail to road that the government is encouraging by increasing rail fares and cutting fuel taxes will accelerate.

What rights do I have if my train is cancelled?

You get a full refund. Train operators will not accommodate requests for alternative means of transport.

What does each side say?

“We sincerely hope the ministers will encourage the bosses to return to the negotiating table and come up with a sensible solution to the RMT,” RMT said.

Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, said: “Everybody loses if there is a strike.

“We are at a pivotal point in the railway’s post-pandemic recovery. Taxpayers have provided the life support industry with £16 billion worth of money over the past two years and that cannot continue.

“Travel habits have changed forever and railways have to change to adapt to this new reality.”

Steve Montgomery, president of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, said: “Every business wants to support its employees and railways are no exception.

“However, as an industry, we have to change the way we work and improve productivity to help pay our own way.

“Ask taxpayers to shoulder the burden after the government contributes more than £16 billion to industry during Covid, or ask passengers to pay even higher fares when they too are feeling the pinch.” , it’s simply not fair.”

Anything else in the offing?

Transport for Wales and ScotRail did not participate in the RMT vote – but ScotRail is currently canceling 700 trains a day due to a dispute involving the train drivers union, Aslef.

The white-collar railway union, TSSA, is threatening what its secretary general calls “a summer of discontent”. Members are being consulted before a possible strike vote if wages fail to keep pace with inflation – which hit 9% last week.

The minister said that they may require a minimum level of staffing. How will it work?

The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, told The Sunday Telegraph that ministers were looking at creating legislation that would make industrial activity illegal unless certain staff were working to ensure epidemic levels. minimum service.

Similar laws apply in other countries – and usually apply when air traffic controllers stop working.

But Mick Lynch said: “Any attempt by Grant Shapps to take illegal strike action on the railroads will be met with the stiffest resistance from the RMT and the broader union movement.

“We have not competed for railroad workers since our predecessors established the Mixed Association of Railroad Servants in 1872, to meekly accept a future in which members our employees are legally prevented from withdrawing their labor.”

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