The ‘white collar’ rail union TSSA is set to ballot more than 6,000 Network Rail staff for strikes and action short of a strike as the railway industrial disputes worsen.
The voting will start on 20 June, and end on 11 July. If staff vote in favour, Network Rail may not be able to maintain a skeleton service by using managers to work in key signalling centres when the RMT and ASLEF are staging their own walkouts. Action could begin on 25 July.
TSSA members perform many operational, control, management and clerical tasks, and their places of work include Network Rail’s directly managed stations.
The union is demanding a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies for 2022, no changes to terms and conditions with agreement and a pay increase which reflects the rising cost of living. The union said their Network Rail staff members last had a pay rise between two and three years ago (depending on their grades) and also worked throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: ‘We could be seeing a Summer of discontent across our railways if Network Rail don’t see sense and come to the table to face the concerns of their staff. Network Rail staff are asking for basic fair treatment: not to be sacked from their jobs; a fair pay rise in the face of a cost-of-living-crisis; and no race to the bottom on terms and conditions.
‘Fat cat bosses have so far refused these completely reasonable requests, leaving us with no option other than to ballot for industrial action, something which is always a last resort.’
Network Rail said: ‘Now is not for time for the TSSA to be jumping on the RMT strike bandwagon.
‘Positive pay talks were in full swing with a “no-strings” pay offer of 2.5 per cent on the table, with the potential for more if connected to productivity and efficiency gains, so this news is both premature and deeply disappointing.’
The Department for Transport responded: ‘Strikes should always be the last resort, not the first, so it is hugely disappointing and premature that the TSSA is balloting for industrial action when talks have only just begun.’
The RMT has already called 24-hour strikes on 21, 23 and 25 June, and operators have been preparing emergency timetables. Passengers are also being warned that disruption is likely to spill over to each following day.