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25 Jun 2022

Gwyn Topham & Tom Ambrose, The Guardian

UK: 40,000 rail workers strike over pay & conditions in biggest rail strike over 30 years

"Train services cut as RMT rail strike enters third day", 25 June 2022

Passengers across Great Britain face a weekend of disrupted train services as the third and final 24-hour leg of the biggest rail strike in 30 years takes place on Saturday...

On Saturday, 40,000 members of the RMT union went on strike in a dispute over pay and conditions on the railways. Rail revenues remain about £2bn short of pre-pandemic levels and the government has told Network Rail and train operating companies to find savings through “modernisation” to fund pay deals.

The union has been offered a package worth 3% but inflation reached 9.1% – or 11.7% on the measure usually used to determine rail salaries – this week.

The RMT general secretary, Mick Lynch, told Sky News on Saturday morning that “there’s a long way to go yet” in the talks, which are due to continue in London.

He said: “They’ve given us a lot of detail about what they want from what they might call the new modern railway; what we don’t know is how our members are going to respond to that.

“We hear a lot of the changes they want to make, but our members when they hear it will find a lot of the changes very difficult to take on board. So we’ll have to see what the complete package is and then we’ll have to go to our people and consult them in detail to see if they want to accept this package.

“So there’s a long way to go yet. But most of the stuff that our members voted very heavily in favour for action about are what’s on the table now and they’ve not diluted very much the stuff that they want.”

Network Rail has said it intends to push forward with changes to the maintenance regime under which 1,800 jobs would be lost, and it will make compulsory redundancies if necessary. The RMT has demanded that the threat be withdrawn.

Train operators are intending to “repurpose” all ticket offices within 18 months to save costs, with customers expected to buy tickets online or via a machine.

Unions and Labour have called on the government to join direct talks but the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, has insisted it is a matter for the employers.

The RMT has yet to call further strikes, but train drivers from the Aslef union will strike next week on Croydon tram services and next weekend on Greater Anglia rail services. More strike ballots are being held by the TSSA union.

“It’s likely unless we get a lot of movement provided by the government that the companies can change their stance that there will be more action, yes,” Lynch said.

London Underground workers may strike again this summer after voting to renew the strike mandate for another six months...