UK rail workers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of summer strikes, in a move likely to cause disruption just as state school holidays begin in England and Wales.
Targeted for 20, 22 and 29 July, the industrial action will involve 20,000 workers and 14 different rail firms across the country. The timing coincides exactly with schools breaking up for the summer. Those who have booked to go away from Saturday to Saturday in the first week of the vacation will be particularly badly hit, going out and coming back.
The Department for Transport has complained that the strikes will also impact “two iconic international sporting events”. Cricket, in the shape of the fourth Ashes Test between England and Australia at Old Trafford in Manchester, and the fifth Ashes Test a week later at The Oval in London, as well as The Open golf championship in Liverpool, will be hit.
UK Hospitality, a group representing the travel, tourism and entertainment sector described the walk-outs as a “hammer blow”.
Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) leader Mick Lynch, won widespread admiration last year when he robustly defended workers’ right to withdraw their labour. He has come out fighting again this time.
“This latest phase of action will show the country just how important railway staff are to the running of the rail industry,” Lynch said. “My team of negotiators and I are available 24/7 for talks with the train operating companies and Government ministers. Yet quite incredibly neither party has made any attempt whatsoever to arrange any meetings or put forward a decent offer that can help us reach a negotiated solution,” he concluded.
The latest pay deal from the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) on behalf of train companies, was a retrospective pay rise of 5% for 2022. Unions say this does not reflect the cost-of-living. Inflation is now at 8.7% in the UK.
Another RMT concern centres on the pay offer’s terms, which mean unions would have to agree to controversial terms and conditions before their members could access any further rises negotiated with individual train operators.
“The government continues to shackle the companies and will not allow them to put forward a package that can settle this dispute,” Lynch stated.
“Our members have now voted three times to take strike action over the last 12 months – the most recent of which coincided with having the full details of the substandard offer from the rail operators. They voted by 9-1 to renew their strike mandate and RMT will continue its industrial campaign until we reach a negotiated settlement on pay, working conditions and job security.”