UK railways face another six months of industrial dispute
The long-running industrial dispute plaguing Britain’s railways shows no signs of abating. The Rail Maritime and Transport union (RMT) has secured yet another six-month mandate for strike action. This marks the fourth successful ballot by the RMT, reinforcing their resolve in the ongoing national rail dispute. The union is primarily in dispute over job security, working practices and pay.
In a significant feat, the RMT again surpassed the legal thresholds placed on trade union action. The largest union in the rail industry balloted over 20,000 members across fourteen rail operating companies. Impressively, each company achieved a turnout of over fifty per cent, with an overwhelming majority casting ‘yes’ votes for further strike action. Overall, a significantly solid 89.9 per cent of members voted in favour of more strike action, with a turnout of 63.6 per cent.
Unions remain sceptical
Mick Lynch, General Secretary of the RMT, commended the members for delivering a resounding mandate for future industrial action, emphasising their pursuit of a negotiated settlement on matters of jobs, pay, and conditions. The union views this outcome as a powerful endorsement of their approach to the dispute, asserting that it grants them significant industrial leverage in negotiations with the Rail Delivery Group (RDG).
The Rail Delivery Group expressed its eagerness to resolve the dispute, acknowledging the detrimental impact it has had on passengers, staff, and businesses dependent on rail services across the nation. The unions remain sceptical about the level of direct engagement from the RDG – often claiming that the UK government is acting to tie the hands of the RDG negotiating team. However, a RDG spokesperson urged the union’s executive to consider the offer on the table, which includes job security guarantees and a pay increase of up to 13 per cent for the lowest-paid workers.
Uncertainty surrounding rail services
The government, with its contractual mandate over the train operating companies, now faces the pivotal decision of allowing the Rail Delivery Group to present a revised offer in order to advance towards a resolution. However, the RMT made it clear that if a new offer is not forthcoming, they are prepared to take further strike action to safeguard their members’ livelihoods. Previous actions have proved very effective at crippling the passenger rail network – a tactic which has led to voiced frustration and a disillusionment with the travelling public.
Nevertheless, the RMT achieved a minimum of 40 per cent ‘yes’ votes among all those who were balloted in each individual Train Operating Company (TOC), a crucial requirement for key transport workers in any strike ballot. This accomplishment underscores the depth of support within the RMT for continued industrial action. This latest development adds to a series of successful mandates for strike action in the ongoing national rail dispute, prolonging the uncertainty surrounding rail services across the UK. As both sides remain steadfast in their positions, passengers and businesses alike hoping for a swift and amicable resolution. That may be a tough ask under the circumstances.