Rail strike is postponed but union warns of further action

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Rail union leaders announced fresh industrial action on Britain's busiest commuter network, but postponed a strike scheduled for next week.

The RMT rail union said there would be another two-day walk-out at South West Trains on 12 and 13 February if their pay dispute was not settled. Meanwhile a 48-hour stoppage planned for 24 and 25 January has been put off until 28 and 29 January to allow talks to take place, the union said.

Industrial relations at SWT were still strained yesterday as management suggested that the postponement was simply to ensure that the wages employees lost through the strikes would be spread between two separate pay months. A statement by management said RMT had been under pressure from its members because they no longer supported the strikes, called in protest at a growing pay differential between drivers and other employees.

Vernon Hince, acting general secretary of the union, described the company's comments as "obvious nonsense". He said: " If members no longer supported the industrial action, we would cancel it. It seems South West Trains is trying to provoke the union."

Mr Hince said the union was raising complaints with the Strategic Rail Authority that the company was cutting overtime and rest-day working, leaving stations unstaffed.

The conciliation service Acas has written to both sides suggesting further negotiations. A series of strikes were held earlier this month which crippled SWT services across the South-east and into Waterloo station.