RMT UNION members on Network Rail have voted for strikes over pensions, two-tier travel concessions and pay. The vote for action was 58 percent on a 68 percent turnout. "That's a clear mandate in anybody's book," says one RMT member. "I bet Blair would be happy with a result like that in the 10 June elections."
The RMT executive is now considering when to call action, which will involve maintenance and signal workers. The last strike by signallers, a decade ago, had a huge impact on the rail network. Network Rail bosses, fresh from awarding themselves huge bonuses, are rumoured to be training up managers to scab on the signallers' strike.
"Apart from anything else, that will put the public's lives at risk," says one Network Rail employee. "It will lead to people with little experience and no local, on the job knowledge being left in charge of routeing trains. It could lead to disaster." Network Rail also last week threatened legal action against the RMT. But this week it said it was looking to talks with the union.
Central to the dispute is the company closing its final salary pension scheme. The TUC's national pensions demonstration on 19 June gives the RMT's fight added weight. So too does the pay dispute on London Underground, where RMT members are balloting for strikes.
The result of that vote is due on Wednesday of next week. RMT general secretary Bob Crow has said the union is looking to coordinate strikes on the mainline railway and the tube.