Railway workers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of national strike action across the rail network in England and Wales, in what is set to become the largest walkout across the transport network in years.
The RMT union said on Tuesday that 71 per cent of workers had backed a walkout over pay and conditions across Network Rail and the 15 train operating companies.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said the “overwhelming endorsement by railway workers is a vindication of the union’s approach and sends a clear message that members want a decent pay rise, job security and no compulsory redundancies.”
He added that officials will “discuss a timetable for strike action from mid-June,” though he added: “We sincerely hope ministers will encourage the employers to return to the negotiating table and hammer out a reasonable settlement with the RMT.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps threatened to bring forward new measures earlier this week that would effectively part-criminalise industrial action on the transport network, by requiring a minimum level of staffing levels during any walkouts.
He told The Sunday Telegraph: “If they really got to that point, then minimum service levels would be a way to work towards protecting those freight routes and those sorts of things.”
The threat drew immediate condemnation from union leaders, who vowed to fight any such proposal.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady added: “We will fight these unfair and unworkable proposals to undermine unions and undermine the right to strike, and we will win.”
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “A workers’ right to withdraw their labour is inalienable in any democracy worth its name.
“This is a cynical, authoritarian move designed to protect corporate profits and has been wheeled out to satisfy the needs of short-term factional politics.”
She warned: “If you force our legitimate activities outside of the law, then don’t expect us to play by the rules.”
It comes as Government workers are threatening mass walkouts across the public sector over a below-inflation pay deal, with unions accusing the UK Government of “attacking” the Civil Service.
Unions are due to vote on national strike action over the offer of a 2 per cent pay deal in the midst of soaring cost of living increases. They claim that this equates to a real-terms pay cut for public-sector staff.
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which represents 55,000 civil servants, rejected the “derisory” offer, saying it came after years of falling pay and worsening redundancy and pension deals.
At the PCS national conference in Brighton on Tuesday, delegates voted formally to ballot members in September over a strike that would extend across the entire Civil Service. The conference was told that a consultation found 81 per cent of members willing to strike. The action could also affect benefits and pensions processing, tax collection, ports, airports and courts.