RMT members to be re-balloted on strikes

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The Independent Online

Union leaders are set to order fresh ballots among thousands of rail workers in a row over jobs and working practices which could lead to the new government facing a series of strikes, it was revealed today.

The executive of the Rail Maritime and Transport union will meet tomorrow to set out a timetable for the re-balloting of more than 5,000 signal workers and 12,000 maintenance staff across the rail network.

The workers were due to stage four days of industrial action from today, which would have crippled rail services on the day Prime Minister Gordon Brown is announcing the date of the general election, but the action was halted by the High Court.

Network Rail made a successful legal challenge in the High Court, leading to the strikes being called off.

But the RMT announced today that fresh ballots will be held, raising the prospect that the new government will have to deal with a spate of rail strikes in early May.

The timetable for the new ballots was not revealed, but it is possible that strikes could be held just before the May 6 election.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: "Our dispute with Network Rail remains alive. The fight to defend 1,500 safety-critical jobs out on the tracks, and safe working conditions for both our signals and maintenance staff, will not be kicked aside by one highly-political court ruling. Our fight against Network Rail's cuts programme goes on.

"This dispute is about safety on Britain's railways and, despite the barrage of abuse, lies and distortions that have been thrown at this union and its members over the past few days, we will not sit back and allow our industry to be dragged back to the dark days of Railtrack, Hatfield and Potters Bar.

"Last week 1,200 track workers at rail company Jarvis were dumped on the dole in another move tied in with Network Rail's £5 billion cuts programme and the Government have not lifted a finger to help those men and women.

"Those staff should be replacing dangerous sections of track on our railways, not queuing up at the benefits office. That's what's at stake in the fight against the jobs massacre on the UK's railways and we will make it a high-profile political issue throughout the election campaign."

Network Rail has strongly argued that the plan to cut 1,500 jobs will not compromise safety and said it needed new working practices to allow more maintenance and other work to be carried out in the evenings and at weekends.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association, which also called off a planned strike by NR supervisors this week, is also planning to re-ballot its members.

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