A second rail union announced today that its members have voted in favour of strikes in a row over Network Rail's plans to axe 1,500 maintenance jobs.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) said its members voted by 56% in favour of strikes and 77% in support of industrial action short of a strike, bringing the threat of stoppages over Easter closer.

It follows yesterday's announcement by the Rail Maritime and Transport union that its maintenance members have backed industrial action.

No strike dates will be announced before next Friday, when the RMT will announce the result of a ballot among Network Rail (NR) signal workers.

TSSA leader Gerry Doherty, who attended a joint demonstration with RMT leader Bob Crow outside NR's London headquarters today, said: "It is not too late for Network Rail to listen to its workforce and the rail regulator, who said last week that their proposed changes could endanger safety.

"The regulator warned Iain Coucher (NR chief executive) not to impose change on the workforce but consult with them instead. He should drop his macho management style and start serious discussions with us to solve this problem."

Talks between union leaders and NR will be held next Thursday in an attempt to resolve the dispute.

The RMT announced yesterday that 77% of its members who took part in the ballot backed strikes, with 89% supporting action short of a strike.

NR said it had contingency plans to deal with any strikes over Easter and maintained that the vast majority of job cuts would be achieved through voluntary redundancy.

The firm said it needed to change working practices so that more maintenance staff worked at weekends to make repairs and maintenance more efficient.

An NR spokesman said: "The way the railway is maintained and operated needs to change. Work practices that date back to the steam age should no longer have a place on a modern railway.

"We all have a duty to get best value for the British people whilst running a safe, reliable and efficient rail network.

"We cannot allow the unions to hold this country to ransom. Negotiation is the only way this dispute will be settled, and the sooner we get around the table, the better for everyone.

"There is still time for the RMT to come to its senses and resolve this dispute in a responsible manner. Our contingency plans to manage any industrial action are at an advanced stage and we will do all we can to minimise any disruption."