Socialist Worker

Action over dangerous Network Rail cuts

Issue No. 2187

The RMT union is planning to ballot members at Network Rail for strike action.

This follows a lobby of parliament by hundreds of Network Rail staff on Wednesday of last week over cuts that threaten jobs and safety.

Members of the TSSA and Aslef unions joined RMT members on the lobby.

Workers are angry that the company responsible for maintaining Britain’s railways is planning to cut 1,500 maintenance jobs. This will have a massive impact on rail safety.

Steve Adie, Craig White, Tony Bell, John Moran and Kevin Roach were among the 20 workers who travelled down from Carlisle.

“We’re going to lose 50 out of 170 jobs in Carlisle”, they said, “The government must recognise that we can’t afford to have job losses at Network Rail if we want good railways.

“If these cuts go through maintenance won’t get done. If you don’t have the workers you can’t do the jobs. We have pride in the work we do that keeps workers and the public safe.

“These cuts are down to money. We’re coming up to the sixth anniversary of the Tebay disaster, where four colleagues were killed by a runaway wagon owned by a contractor.

“Network Rail is still using contractors, despite their lack of skill or communication.

“At Northampton the company wants to go from 17 ultrasonic operatives, who check track defects, to one,” said a Network Rail worker from Watford.

“It wants to do the same to the number of welders and grinders.

“The company wants to use contractors to cover work, which we believe is unsafe. The rail regulator says Network Rail needs to make 21 percent cuts over the next five years. It is supposed to deal with health and safety!

“Network Rail wants to use the recession to frighten people. It wants to change our terms and conditions, rostering us to work shifts that are not family-orientated.”

Graham Turner, of Aslef’s Bletchley branch, said, “The implications of the amount of cuts are frightening. They will have an effect on everyone—drivers included.”

Union leaders and Labour MPs attacked the planned cuts and the privatisation of the railways at a rally in parliament. More than 90 MPs have signed Early Day Motion 80 against the cuts.

Bob Crow, RMT general secretary, told the rally, “We are one little step away from a railway accident. The RMT is going to ballot every single Network Rail member for strikes.

“We’ll see what the political atmosphere is like if there are a few strikes on the railways in the lead-up to an election.

“We can’t just rely on the MPs. They’ve had 12 and a half years to do something about the rail network. We have to fight for ourselves. Railway workers won’t take this.”

The RMT must begin its ballot for action as soon as possible.

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Tue 2 Feb 2010, 19:19 GMT
Issue No. 2187
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