A ballot of 15,000 Network Rail maintenance workers ends this week. It follows a scathing official report into the company’s plans to change its structure and cut 1,500 jobs.
The RMT and TSSA transport unions believe this will severely affect safety and a report by the Office for Rail Regulation (ORR) flagged up concerns including:
- Failure to carry out practical tests on the plans.
- Ongoing problems on the West Coast Mainline, targeted for the bulk of job cuts
- Reductions in safety-critical working hours
- Cutting back on safety lookouts and safety briefings.
ORR’s chief executive Bill Emery has warned the company that he will have “no hesitation in taking immediate action if safety to passengers or employees is put at risk”.
Gerry Doherty, TSSA general secretary, said, “Network Rail is trying to push through changes without the consent and agreement of its staff.
“Directors Iain Coucher and Peter Bennett... are more interested in trying to impress [David Cameron] with their macho style of management than sitting down and reaching a sensible agreement.'
Bob Crow, the RMT’s general secretary, said, “The RMT has said from the start that Network Rail’s plans can only undermine rail safety.
“This news justifies the union’s decision to ballot members for strike action to defend rail safety and their jobs.”
Both unions should call hard-hitting, co-ordinated action as soon as the ballot result is announced.