THOUSANDS of railway workers in Britain are arranging their second strike for the week today after the talks failed to resolve a bitter dispute over wages, jobs and conditions.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) on Network Rail and 13 train operators will take action, weakening services across the UK.
Only around every fifth train will run and mainly on main lines during the day.
Ahead of the strike, the government announced plans to change the law to allow companies to provide qualified agency workers to close staff gaps during hostilities.
Ministers pointed out that under current union law, employers are restricted from providing staffing companies to cover strikes, and said it could have a “disproportionate impact”.
The legislation will lift the “burdensome” legal restrictions, giving strike-stricken companies the freedom to use the services of employment agencies that can provide qualified, staffing companies at short notice, the government said.
Network Rail welcomed the move, but Labor and unions condemned it as a “recipe for disaster.”
The RMT accused Transport Secretary Grant Shapps of “destroying” negotiations.
RMT Secretary-General Mick Lynch said: “Grant Shapps has ruined these negotiations by not allowing Network Rail to withdraw its letter threatening the dismissal of 2,900 of our members.
– Until the government releases Network Rail and the train companies, it will not be possible to agree on a negotiated agreement.
“We will continue our industrial campaign until we reach a negotiated settlement that provides job security and a pay rise for our members who are dealing with the escalating cost of living crisis.”
Shapps retaliated, saying the RMT allegation was a “lie.”
Grant Shapps denied that he “destroyed” negotiations
Source: Aaron Chown / PA
At the same time, members of the driver’s union Aslef on Greater Anglia will go on strike today in a separate dispute over pay.
The company, which is also affected by the RMT strike, advised passengers to travel only if necessary.
The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) announced that its members at Merseyrail had accepted a 7.1% salary offer.
Secretary-General Manuel Cortes said: “What this clearly shows is that our union and sister unions are in no way an obstacle to finding the solutions needed to avoid a summer of discontent on the railways.
“Rather, it is the government that is set to dig into their heels. Grant Shapps would be wise to start talking seriously with our union when we vote for hostilities on our railways up and down the country.”
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A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group: “With the number of passengers still at only 80% of the levels before the pandemic, the industry is still committed to providing a fair deal on wages while not taking more than its fair share from taxpayers.
“We can only achieve that by making improvements – such as offering better services on a Sunday – that reflect the changing needs of passengers so that we can attract more people back.
“We urge RMT’s management to continue talking so that we can secure a prosperous long-term future for the railway and its workforce.
“Our advice to passengers remains the same, only travel by train if absolutely necessary, check before you travel and make sure you know the time of your first and last train.”
A spokesperson for Network Rail said: “We are disappointed that RMT has once again chosen to withdraw from the negotiations without agreeing on an agreement. We remain available for talks – day and night – and will do everything we can to avoid further disturbances to our passengers.
“As a result of this unnecessary and premature strike, rail traffic will look much like it did on Tuesday – starting later in the morning and ending much earlier in the evening (around 6.30pm).
“We ask passengers to check before you travel, be aware of when your last available train departs and only travel by train if necessary.”
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