Labour Research April 2021


National rail dispute may be on horizon

The RMT rail workers’ union has moved to “national dispute” footing to protect thousands of rail jobs after it discovered that Network Rail is planning to cut costs to address the fall in passenger numbers caused by the COVID pandemic.

The union described plans to make thousands of rail workers redundant by September and introduce a 50% cut in rail safety maintenance work as “a return to the disastrous days of Railtrack”.

Unions were already in talks with the rail operator over a pay freeze and other attacks on working conditions.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Under orders from the government, Network Rail is using the COVID-19 drop in passenger numbers and service levels to rush through the most radical restructuring of the railway infrastructure since privatisation. He said this would mean “a return to the disastrous days of Railtrack where cutting costs and corners led to a string of fatal accidents.”

He added he would be seeking an urgent meeting with transport secretary Grant Shapps. But in the meantime, the union had no choice but to move to a national dispute footing,

The TSSA transport union accused Network Rail of acting in bad faith. General secretary Manuel Cortes said Network Rail had “jumped the gun” after reading an email in which its chief executive, Andrew Haines, told staff that savings have to made.