THE RMT has declared a national dispute in protest at changes at Network Rail which the union claims will lead to thousands of redundancies and a halving of safety critical maintenance work.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash is seeking an urgent meeting with transport secretary Grant Shapps, but Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines said modernisation is necessary.
Mr Cash said: ‘Under orders from the Government Network Rail is using the Covid-19 drop in passenger numbers and service levels to rush through the most radical restructuring of the railway infrastructure since privatisation.
‘Rather than the post Covid-19 return to rail recovery which our economy and climate desperately needs this is a return to the disastrous days of Railtrack where cutting costs and corners led to a string of fatal accidents.
‘Rail staff, who have been essential workers throughout the pandemic, have already had a kick in the teeth with an attempt to impose the government’s pay freeze. Now they are threatened with the loss of thousands of jobs accompanied by a drastic dilution of safety tasks, which will have catastrophic consequences for rail safety.’
Network Rail’s Andrew Haines responded: ‘Outdated practices, and the impact of Covid on passenger numbers, show that the railway is not serving passengers, taxpayers or staff as well as it should. That’s why we want to work constructively with the unions to create an industry fit for the 21st century that is genuinely safe, efficient and effective for everyone. I hope the unions will recognise and embrace the need to modernise and will work with us to improve Britain’s rail network.’