Rail workers vote for strike

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The Independent Online

Railway workers have voted to strike in a dispute over pay and pensions, threatening travel chaos across the country, it was announced today.

Railway workers have voted to strike in a dispute over pay and pensions, threatening travel chaos across the country, it was announced today.

Members of the Rail Maritime and Transport union heavily backed a campaign of industrial action against Network Rail.

Around 7,000 signal workers and maintenance staff are now set to be involved in the worst industrial unrest on the railways for a decade.

The union held back from naming strike dates immediately in a sign that a fresh attempt to avert walkouts could be made.

The RMT has warned it might co-ordinate strike action on the mainline railway with London Underground, where union members are involved in a separate pay dispute.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow announced the ballot result at the union's London head office and launched a fresh attack on a decision by Network Rail to change its pension scheme for new entrants.

Union members voted by 2,947 in favour of a strike with 2,246 against, a majority of 58 per cent. The turn out was 68 per cent, high for a union ballot.

Mr Crow said the union's executive will meet next week to decide what form of industrial action will be held following consultation with RMT reps across the country.

He made it clear that strikes will be held unless there is a breakthrough, although he said there will be no disruption during the bank holiday weekend or to coincide with events to mark the 60th anniversary of D-Day.

"Despite a venomous and misleading propaganda campaign by Network Rail, our members have voted for action to defend their pension rights, to end two-tier working conditions and for justice on pay."

Mr Crow said the union remained ready to hold talks with Network Rail and the company had to negotiate "seriously" in the coming days if strikes were to be avoided.

"Network Rail's directors are happy enough to hand themselves telephone number bonuses but when it comes to the workforce it is a completely different story.

"Without a word of negotiation they have closed a decent pension scheme and imposed a cheaper, inferior scheme no better than a glorified savings plan."

Mr Crow said the company had refused to discuss travel facilities for Network Rail staff and made it clear there was no room for further discussion on pay.

"Our members have made it clear that their pensions are not an optional luxury that can be cut to help boost the bosses' bonus fund."

Mr Crow said the 58 per cent majority was a comfortable vote in favour of strikes and made it clear that disruption will go ahead unless an agreement is reached soon.

The union will inform Network Rail today about the ballot result and will immediately begin consulting with workers and RMT officials across the country before naming strike dates.

The Strategic Rail Authority said that every day a strike was held money would be lost to settle the dispute.

"This is a mad strike. Every day a strike lasts the amount of available money for pay rises goes down. Only RMT members can stop this," a spokesman added.