Rail strikes set to go ahead

Two 24-hour RMT walkouts at most English train operators are set to go ahead on Thursday and Saturday this week, after talks arranged between the Rail Delivery Group and the union before the weekend appeared to make little progress.

The sticking points are pay and ‘modernisation’, which the RMT fears could mean the mass closure of ticket offices.   However, the union has called a ballot of its Network Rail members after a new offer was received. The RMT National Executive is making no recommendations to its members about whether they should accept or reject the offer, but industrial action on Network Rail has been suspended, at least for the time being, which should mean that this week’s strikes at train operators may be slightly less disruptive than in the past, because signallers should be working normally.   The Network Rail ballot closes on 20 March.   Further strikes affecting the operators have been called for 30 March and 1 April, unless the negotiations succeed before then.   Meanwhile, London Underground services will also be disrupted on Wednesday this week, when ASLEF and RMT members walk out for 24 hours in a dispute which ASLEF claims has been caused by ‘management’s failure to accept that changes to our working arrangements and pensions should only happen by agreement’. The RMT is particularly unhappy about job losses at stations and what it sees as the possibility of ‘attacks on pensions or ripping up agreements’.   ASLEF’s Undeground organiser Finn Brennan said: ‘We understand that TfL faces financial challenges, post-pandemic, but our members are simply not prepared to pay the price for the government’s failure to properly fund London’s public transport system.   ‘Cuts to safety training have already been forced through and management is open that they plan to remove all current working agreements under the guise of “modernisation” and “flexibility” and to replace the agreed attendance and discipline policies. Proposals to slash pension benefits are due to be announced in the next week.’   Transport for London’s chief operating officer Glynn Barton said: ‘ASLEF and the RMT are planning strike action on the London Underground on Wednesday 15 March. Strikes are bad news for everyone and we are encouraging them to withdraw this action and continue to engage with us to avoid disruption to our customers.   ‘Our advice for our customers is clear; please check before you travel as strike action impacts varying services throughout the week. Expect services to be busy and please allow extra time to complete your journeys.’   The strikes in London on Wednesday will affect Underground lines, but services on London Overground, the Elizabeth Line, the Docklands Light Railway and tram routes are not expected to be disrupted. On Thursday and Saturday TfL said the walkouts on National Rail may cause problems on those sections of the Underground, the Elizabeth Line and London Overground which use Network Rail tracks.   TfL added: ‘This action on London Underground comes following the government's mandated review into TfL's pensions scheme and despite the fact that no proposals have been tabled on pensions. If any proposal is made in the future this would require appropriate consultation and extensive further work.’

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