Up to 25,000 Network Rail workers were set to strike across Britain for 24 hours from 5pm on Monday of next week. It is part of a row with bosses over pay and job security.
It will be the first national strike under the new Tory government. In fact it will be the first national rail strike for 20 years.
Operations, maintenance and customer service workers voted for the bank holiday walkout after Network Rail bosses failed to improve a four-year pay deal.
They were also set to refuse to work any overtime, additional hours, extended shifts or undertake any callouts for 48 hours from midnight this Sunday.
It will have a huge impact on Tuesday morning commuter services as people return to work.
Majority union RMT voted by 80 percent to strike while TSSA union members voted by 53 percent.
Both unions had turnouts above the proposed ballot threshold included in the Tories’ latest attacks on the right to strike.
On Tuesday Network Rail bosses threatened legal action against the TSSA ballot. It is important that this isn’t allowed to halt the action. TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said on Monday, “We have to be prepared to do whatever it takes to try to defeat the Tories.”
He said he was proud to have supported an illegal strike in Ireland and added, “No law is going to stop us from defending our members.”
Workers rightly rejected the below-inflation pay deal, even with an improved £500 lump sum added in. The deal barely keeps up with the official cost of living figures. And compulsory redundancies are only off the table until December 2016.
Network Rail worker Tim told Socialist Worker, “The company says there isn’t enough money to pay a wage rise because of budget cuts. But workers have no say in these budgets and they’re trying to make us pay the price of austerity.”
Workers are right to strike. As the Tories prepare for savage public spending cuts bosses at the state-owned infrastructure firm are determined to cut costs and attack their pay and conditions.
Tim said, “Bosses have accused us of ‘holding the travelling public to ransom’ but the opposite is true.
“The cost of replanning the critical engineering works set to take place over the bank holiday would easily pay for a cost of living increase for Network Rail staff.
“Our strike is targeting Network Rail not the travelling public.”
And Network Rail can well afford to pay—it made a £1.2 billion profit last year, double the previous year.
Many of its executives enjoy six-figure salaries, bumper pay increases and total packages worth close to a million pounds a year.
Yet workers are expected to take cuts to their living standards.
Train operating company bosses earn even more and fares have rocketed while they cream off enormous profits from public subsidies. It’s the bosses that are sucking cash out of our public services not workers.
Network Rail staff doing long unsociable hours in dirty and dangerous conditions to keep the railway network going deserve better than pay cuts and the prospect of losing their job.
They have the power to force the bosses to accept their demands. We need to get behind their strike. A victory for them would boost everyone who wants to beat the Tories.