Monday, May 25 marks a national bank holiday in Britain. On this day, thousands of British families will be heading to train stations across the United Kingdom to embark on their much needed annual holiday. But they’re going to have a hard time doing this if the Network Rail can’t reach a solution with three of their unions.
At least two of these unions have scheduled a 24 hour walkout for 5:00pm on Monday, May 25.Monday’s strike will mark the first rail worker strike in the United Kingdom in twenty years.
As it stands, Network Rail is in a dispute with RMT, TSSA, and Unite – which together make up over 20,000 employees. The largest of these, RMT will enter into a 24- hour walkout at 5:00pm on Monday, May 25. They will be joined by TSSA (The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association). It is unclear whether Unite will also join them. Unite is made up of 230 rail workers, who at the moment are not taking part in either talks or strike preparations.
Network Rail is falling back on old habits by proceeding with legal action in the hopes of thwarting a strike. RMT is Network’s Rail largest union, made up of 16,000 members has put forward their strike ballot. Their ballot has not been challenged by Network Rail, meanwhile, the TSSA’s ballot has been. According to Network Rail, there are inaccuracies in the ballots which they are demanded be withdrawn.
According to Network Rail, the legal action they have proceeded with is to be considered a separate issue than the pay talks currently ongoing. Both the TSSA, and RMT see this as an attack on the lives of Network Rail’s employees, both when it comes to their living standards and safety.
British newspapers, and union representatives alike are expressing their dismay that Network Rail would threaten court action. Instead, they would like to see Network Rail attempt serious, thoughtful negotiations with their valuable 16,000 employees.
One of the issues at the moment is that both TSSA and RMT flat out refused Network Rail’s proposed four-year deal. In this plan, each worker would receive a £500 sum, three years of inflation matching income, and the promise of no mandatory redundancies until December 2016.
Network Rail is feeling the heat. Their priority is to keep the rails open for the hundreds of thousands of individuals and companies that rely on them, not only for day to day commuting and freight transport, but also for the country’s much needed bank holiday to kick off the summer season.