The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) balloted members on potential strike actions following a bitter dispute with Network Rail over jobs, pay and conditions.
RMT have said that Network Rail intends to cute around 2,500 maintenance jobs, while other staff have been subjected to pay freezes, threats to their jobs and attacks on their terms and conditions.
With a huge backing from its memberhsip, union bosses will now proceed with deciding when the strikes will take place.
What did RMT Union say about the strikes?
RMT say around 40,000 members were balloted, including workers at Chiltern Railways Cross Country Trains, Greater Anglia, LNER, East Midlands Railway, c2c, Great Western Railway, Northern Trains, South Eastern Railway, South Western Railway, Island Line, Govia Thameslink (including Gatwick Express), Transpennine Express, Avanti West Coast and West Midlands Trains.
Of the eligible members, 71% took part in the vote, with 89% of those voting on favour of industrial action.
RMT say that the mandate was the biggest endorsment for industrial action by railway workers since privatisation.
The union’s general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Today’s overwhelming endorsement by railway workers is a vindication of the union’s approach and sends a clear message that members want a decent pay rise, job security and no compulsory redundancies.”
When will train strikes take place?
RMT have not decided on when exactly the strikes are scheduled to take place, however it is hoped that they will be able to take industrial action from early summer if the issue is not resolved.
Mr Lynch said: “Our NEC will now meet to discuss a timetable for strike action from mid-June, but we sincerely hope ministers will encourage the employers to return to the negotiating table and hammer out a reasonable settlement with the RMT.”
Any walkout by rail worker could have a hugely significant impact on timetables.
Network Rail strikes may have a similar pattern, with the possibility of much earlier timetable finishes.
What has Network Rail said about the strikes?
Network Rail have criticised the move to call for insudtrial action, claiming that the union has “jumped the gun”.
The company have said that the industry is in a key period of recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, and has encouraged RMT to “continue to talk, not walk”.
Andrew Haines, Network Rail’s chief executive, said: “The RMT has jumped the gun here as everyone loses if there’s a strike. We know our people are concerned about job security and pay. As a public body we have been working on offering a pay increase that taxpayers can afford, and we continue to discuss this with our trades unions.
“We urge the RMT to sit down with us and continue to talk, not walk, so that we can find a compromise and avoid damaging industrial action.
“We are at a key point in the railway’s recovery from the pandemic. The taxpayer has provided the industry with £16 billion worth of additional life support over the last two years and that cannot continue.
“Travel habits have changed forever and the railway has to change as well to adapt to this new reality. We believe that by modernising – creating safer jobs for our people and operating the railway more efficiently – we can build a sustainable future with a railway that delivers for passengers and taxpayers.
“Any industrial action now would be disastrous for our industry’s recovery and would hugely impact vital supply and freight chains. It would also serve to undermine our collective ability to afford the pay increases we want to make.”
The strikes could have huge financial implications for Network Rail, with industrial action potentially costing the industry arund £30million per day.
Network Rail say that strike action would undermine its ability to afford pay rises, due to the financial implications of staff striking.
What has the government said about the strikes?
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Strikes should always be the last resort, not the first, so it is hugely disappointing and premature that the RMT is calling for industrial action before even entering discussions.
“Taxpayers across the country contributed £16 billion to keep our railways running throughout the pandemic while ensuring not a single worker lost their job.
“The railway is still on life support, with passenger numbers 25% down, and anything that drives away even more of them risks killing services and jobs. Train travel for millions more people is now a choice, not a necessity. Strikes stop our customers choosing rail, and they might never return.
“We urge the RMT to reconsider and accept the invitation of industry talks, so we can find a solution that delivers for workers, passengers and taxpayers alike.”