Socialist Worker

National rail strike can defeat bosses’ plans

by Matthew Cookson
Issue No. 2195

Thousands of railway maintenance and signalling workers at Network Rail are poised to go on strike over job cuts and work schedules next week. If the strike goes ahead, it will severely effect Britain’s rail system.

Members of the RMT and TSSA unions voted to strike over the company’s plans to slash 1,500 safety-critical maintenance jobs and impose new rosters.

A hard-hitting, united strike next week can force bosses to back down.

Maintenance workers will strike for four days from Tuesday of next week, while signallers will strike between 6am and 10am and 6pm and 10pm on each of the strike days.

As the strike approached, it seemed that Network Rail had a three-pronged strategy to deal with the dispute.

The first was to go into talks with the unions, offering to buy them off with extra money for workers to accept the plans.

These were continuing as Socialist Worker went to press.

The second was to threaten the unions with legal action to get the strikes called off because of supposed ballot “irregularities”.

And the third was to launch a propaganda war with adverts in the national press denouncing the strikes, while preparing contingency plans to break it.

The RMT and TSSA must defy all three parts of the bosses’ strategy.

“We cannot allow the job cuts and changes to agreements to happen,” said Steve Richards, branch secretary of Newport RMT.

“We have to fight. If the money is there to try to buy us off, they shouldn’t be saying that Network Rail needs to make such cuts.

“In the early stages of privatisation, Railtrack—Network Rail’s privatised predecessor—saved money by not repairing tracks. The result was disasters, such as Hatfield.

“Cuts in safety teams will have a huge impact on safety.

“And Network Rail’s new rosters mean that there will be little work/life balance for workers.

“Signallers in South Wales and Newport were the first to come face to face with these problems.”


Dave Barnes, a TSSA member on Network Rail, said, “Management has, so far, not come anywhere near addressing the unions’ concerns on safety, job losses and its ability to honour agreements.

“This dispute has seen an unprecedented level of unity between the TSSA and the RMT, which must continue. Unless there is a significant shift on the major issues the unions must hold firm and strike.”

The effect Network Rail’s plans are already having was seen last week when the Office of Rail Regulation issued it with an improvement notice because of a backlog of safety inspection work in the south east.

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Article information

Tue 30 Mar 2010, 18:50 BST
Issue No. 2195
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