The trade union has balloted its 40,000 members for strike action and the vote closes on Tuesday next week.The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association is also consulting staff on a strike and said it will co-ordinate with RMT.
The looming potential strike action has caused rail bosses to start making contingency plans, such as prioritising freight trains over passenger services on the network to ensure petrol and food supplies do not run short.
Transport minister Grant Shapps is understood to be meeting with Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak next week to discuss the situation, as reported by The Times.
If the ballot is successful there has been no indication from RMT when strike action could begin, however it could not take place during the Queen’s jubilee long weekend as two weeks notice must be given before industrial action.
RMT balloted members because it said that Network Rail is planning to cut at least 2,500 safety-critical maintenance jobs as part of a £2 billion reduction in spending, while workers at train operators have been subject to pay freezes and changes to their terms and conditions.
In late April, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Railway workers have had to contend with pay freezes, the prospect of losing their jobs and repeated attacks on their terms and conditions.
“Removing 2,500 safety critical jobs from Network Rail will spell disaster for the public, make accidents more likely and will increase the possibility of trains flying off the tracks.”
He added: “The way for trade unions to effectively take on the cost-of-living crisis is to stand up for their members at work and take industrial action when employers are not moved by the force of reasoned argument.
“A national rail strike will bring the country to a standstill, but our members livelihoods and passenger safety are our priorities.”
The ballot covers RMT members on Network Rail and 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, GTR (including Gatwick Express), Transpennine Express, Avanti West Coast, and West Midlands Trains.
Tim Shoveller, Network Rail’s regional director, said: “Our railway has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, and even as passenger numbers start to recover, we know travel habits and passenger demand have changed and the industry has to change too.
“We cannot keep relying on Government handouts, and so we must work together with train operators and our trades unions to save millions of pounds and deliver a more efficient railway.
“Our modernisation programme aims to build a sustainable future that delivers for passengers and creates better and safer jobs for our people.
“We would not consider any changes that would make the railway less safe.”
Source Link Plan to prevent food shortages amid fears of ‘biggest rail strike in modern history’