Another union announces rail strikes as travel chaos looms

Thousands of staff at seven rail operating firms to walk out on 18 and 20 August, TSSA says

Andy Gregory
Monday 25 July 2022 22:45 BST
When and where are the next train strikes?

Another rail union has announced that its members will strike next month in response to the ongoing dispute over pay, job security and conditions.

Thousands of staff at seven rail operators – spanning those in operational, maintenance, supervisory and management roles – will walk out on 18 and 20 August, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) said on Monday.

It is the first rail-industry wide industrial action taken by TSSA in more than a generation, demonstrating the strength of feeling over pay and job security as the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite, the union said.

Cautioning that the warnings of a “summer of discontent” across the country’s rail network were now “an ever-closer reality”, the union’s general secretary, Manuel Cortes, urged transport secretary Grant Shapps to “either personally come to the table or empower train operators to reach a deal”.

The fresh strikes will fall on the same days as the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union is striking against Network Rail and 14 other train operators.

The TSSA has served notice for action to Avanti West Coast, c2c, East Midlands Railway, CrossCountry, Great Western Railway, LNER, and Southeastern, while action short of strike will be taken against West Midlands Trains, Northern, Greater Anglia, TransPennine Express and Southeastern, it said.

TSSA has held off on serving notice for industrial action in Network Rail in order to hold eleventh-hour talks over pay, job security and conditions – but there is still time to serve notice for action on 18 and 20 August if these talks are unsuccessful.

“This is a momentous day for our members,” Mr Cortes said. “The Tories’ cost-of-living crisis is the worst in living memory. Essential items like food, energy and clothing costs are going through the roof yet the government has chosen to pick a political fight with rail workers.

“Most of our members are going into a third or fourth year of pay freezes, seeing their real take-home pay decrease. For many rail workers in our union this is the first time they have been directly involved in an industrial dispute.

“We do not take strike action lightly, but enough is enough. The Conservative government is the clear block to a deal for rail workers. Grant Shapps must either personally come to the table or empower train operators to reach a deal on pay, job security and conditions.

“Instead of wanting to resolve this dispute, we now see proposals for hundreds of ticket office closures and widespread job cuts across our railways. We’ve been warning of a summer of discontent across our railways for months, and sadly it is an ever-closer reality.”

The union’s announcement came hours after the government and Network Rail attacked what they respectively labelled “cynically-timed” and “pointless” strikes set to take place this week due to the ongoing disupte.

RMT members at 15 operators, including Network Rail, and Avanti West Coast Staff with the TSSA will walk out on Wednesday, leaving only a fifth of services running, on around half of the network – prompting calls for people to travel only if necessary.

Mick Lynch, the general secretary of RMT, accused Network Rail of “upping the ante” with fresh threats unless the strike was called off – but said that union members were more determined than ever to secure their demands.

“Network Rail have not made any improvement on their previous pay offer and the train companies have not offered us anything new,” Mr Lynch said. “In fact Network Rail have upped the ante, threatening to impose compulsory redundancies and unsafe 50 per cent cuts to maintenance work if we did not withdraw our planned strike action.

“The train operating companies have put driver-only operations on the table along with ransacking our members’ terms and conditions. RMT will continue to negotiate in good faith but we will not be bullied or cajoled by anyone. The government need to stop their interference in this dispute so the rail employers can come to a negotiated settlement with us.”

Describing the strike as “pointless”, Network Rail’s chief executive Andrew Haines apologised for the impact the industrial action would have upon those travelling to attend the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 semi-final on Wednesday and the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games the following day.

“Despite our best efforts to find a breakthrough, I'm afraid there will be more disruption for passengers this week as the RMT seems hell-bent on continuing their political campaigning, rather than compromising and agreeing a deal for their members,” Mr Haines said.

In a similarly-worded statement, a Department for Transport spokesperson said it was “now clearer than ever that the RMT has no interest in engaging in constructive discussions and is hell-bent on creating further misery for passengers across the UK”.

“This action is a cynically timed attempt to derail the start of the Commonwealth Games, one of the first major events the country has been able to look forward to since the pandemic,” they said.

“As well as those travelling to the games, RMT’s actions will affect people in need of urgent care, hardworking families off on long-awaited holidays and day trips, and businesses – all while a fair two-year, 8 per cent deal hasn’t even been put to their members.

“The rail industry has to modernise and be brought into the 21st century for the benefit of passengers and staff. We’re extremely disappointed to see that instead of staying at the table, RMT executives have chosen to walk away once more. We continue to encourage RMT to do the right thing by their members and passengers alike and call off the strikes.”

Additional reporting by PA

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in