Rail users around Britain are facing a third day of disruption as workers continue strike action.
Around 40,000 workers across Network Rail and 13 train operators are on strike after Wednesday’s talks between rail bosses and the union broke down amid accusations that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was “wrecking” negotiations.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Grant Shapps has wrecked these negotiations by not allowing Network Rail to withdraw their letter threatening redundancy for 2,900 of our members.”
Mr Shapps called the claims a “lie” .
In response to the strike action the Government has said it will change the law to enable businesses to supply skilled agency workers to plug staffing gaps during industrial action.
Network Rail welcomed the move but Labour and unions condemned it as a “recipe for disaster”.
When will the rail strike take place?
The RMT strike is taking place on 21, 23 and 25 June but it is expected to cause disruption for at least six days.
The first day of the action coincided with a separate walkout planned by TfL staff over job concerns on the London Underground.
Around 40,000 staff around the country are striking on 23 and 25 June.
The TSSA union has said it will also ballot around 6,000 Network Rail staff and 570 workers on CrossCountry, East Midlands Trains and West Midlands Trains on industrial action, which could see action begin as early as 25 July.
What services are affected?
RMT members from Network Rail and 13 train operators are taking part in the strike, affecting routes on the following networks:
- Avanti West Coast
- Chiltern Railways
- Cross Country Trains
- East Midlands Railway
- Great Western Railway
- Greater Anglia
- Northern Trains
- South Eastern
- South Western Railway
- TransPennine Express
- West Midlands Trains
Lines will only be open from 6.30am to 7.30pm.
No trains will run north from Edinburgh or Glasgow during the action and Network Rail said no passenger services will serve locations such as Penzance in Cornwall, Bournemouth in Dorset, Swansea in South Wales, Holyhead in North Wales, Chester in Cheshire and Blackpool, Lancashire.
Rail operators have warned that on the days between strikes as few as 12,000 services will run because signallers and control staff will not work overnight shifts that begin on the strike dates.
There will also be strikes at three other rail companies over pay.
Workers on Hull Trains will strike on June 26, at Greater Anglia on June 23 and on Croydon Tramlink on June 28 and 29 and July 13 and 14.
Meanwhile, members of the drivers’ union Aslef on Greater Anglia are striking on Thursday in a separate dispute over pay.
Any action by TSSA members could affect CrossCountry, East Midlands and West Midlands and Avanti West Coast services as well as affecting staffing at many of the UK’s biggest stations.
Which events could be affected?
The strike comes over a very busy few days around the country, with a number of major musical and sporting events scheduled and many attendees now having to find alternative means of transport.
Glastonbury Festival returns for the first time since 2019 and starts on 22 June, while that week will also see England play New Zealand in a Test cricket match in Leeds on 23 June, the British Athletics Championships in Manchester on 24-25 June, and gigs in London’s Hyde Park by Sir Elton John (24 June) and The Rolling Stones (25 June).
There will also be a Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London on 24-25 June 24 and it is Armed Forces Day on 25 June.
Why are RMT workers striking?
The RMT union balloted its members on strike action after talks over pay and redundancy guarantees broke down.
The union says that railway staff who worked through the pandemic are facing job cuts, a pay freeze and attacks on employment conditions.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Rail companies are making at least £500 million a year in profits, whilst fat cat rail bosses have been paid millions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Railway workers have been treated appallingly and, despite our best efforts in negotiations, the rail industry, with the support of the Government, has failed to take their concerns seriously.
“We have a cost-of-living crisis, and it is unacceptable for railway workers to either lose their jobs or face another year of a pay freeze when inflation is at 11.1% and rising.
“Our union will now embark on a sustained campaign of industrial action which will shut down the railway system.”
Could the strike be extended?
John Leach, assistant general secretary of the RMT said on 20 June that workers were determined to get “determined to see this through” and have their demands met.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether transport workers will stick with the negotiations if it becomes a “war of attrition”, Mr Leach said the workers in his union have “grit and determination”.
He said: “The men and women in my union kept this country moving through the pandemic, they keep the railways moving every single day and it’s that kind of grit and determination that’s going to mean that they will stick with this negotiation and justice for themselves in that regard, right through to the end.
“We didn’t want to be in this situation – that has to be said – but we are determined to see this through.”
Mr Lynch has said that the Government is blocking a resolution.
He said: “Until the Government unshackle Network Rail and the train operating companies, it is not going to be possible for a negotiated settlement to be agreed.
“We will continue with our industrial campaign until we get a negotiated settlement that delivers job security and a pay rise for our members that deals with the escalating cost-of-living crisis.”
On Monday 13 June, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch appeared on LBC radio, where he was asked about comments by Gary Smith, general secretary of the GMB union, in which he said he would have “no problems with coordinating strike action with other unions”, including the RMT, “in order to leverage our power”.
Mr Lynch replied: “It would make sense for workers to leverage their power in any campaign because the UK worker needs a pay rise. Profits are up, dividends are up, we've had more billionaires than we've ever had and the rich have never been richer.
“While that's been happening, workers’ wages have been falling so that's something that's got to be addressed and it's the trade union's job to address it.”
Asked if this meant a “de facto national strike”, Mr Lynch replied: “We're not going that far, coordination is different to a national strike. We'll see how that develops through the summer. I'm not saying it won't take place but we need some coordination.”
What is Network Rail doing?
Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines said:“We, and our train operating colleagues, are gearing up to run the best service we can for passengers and freight users despite the actions of the RMT.
“The level of service we will be able to offer will be significantly compromised and passengers need to take that into account and to plan ahead and only travel if it’s really necessary to do so.”
Half of all lines around the country are shut, along with many stations. Network Rail has focused its efforts on keeping open main lines connecting major cities and busy urban routes.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the strike action was “incredibly disappointing” and could drive passengers away from the railways “for good”.
He added: “The pandemic has changed travel habits – with 25% fewer ticket sales and the taxpayer stepping in to keep the railways running at a cost of £16 billion, equivalent to £600 per household. We must act now to put the industry on a sustainable footing.