Rail union votes to strike over pay rises

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The Independent Online

Rail passengers face severe disruption over the new year because of strikes on Britain's busiest commuter network.

More than 2,000 members of the RMT rail union at South West Trains are understood to have voted for industrial action which would stop virtually all the company's services into London Waterloo.

The union is protesting over management's decision to award higher wage increases to train drivers – who are members of the rival union Aslef – than to other staff and over alleged victimisation of activists.

Commuters on the network suffered considerable disruption earlier this year because of industrial action in protest over new staff waistcoats.

The results of two separate ballots are due to be announced tomorrow and according to the law the stoppages could begin seven working days later on New Year's Eve. The union's executive will decide on the timing and the precise nature of the disruption after the results of the vote are announced.

In the dispute over wages the RMT union points out that its members, who make up the majority of employees, have been offered a deal worth half as much as that given to drivers who will be receiving a 3.8 per cent increase from next April, plus a further 3.8 per cent from October. The union is also demanding a shorter working week.

The separate conflict, where only train crew have been balloted, is over disciplinary action taken against the union's representatives, who were accused of breaching safety rules.