Millions of rail commuters face major disruption after members of the RMT union voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action in protest over a pay dispute.
Of the 16,000 balloted RMT members working across Network Rail, 80% voted for strike action on a 60% turn out and by 92% for action short of strike action.
The union is now considering a nationwide strike after rejecting Network Rail’s latest pay offer to workers as ‘falling well short of what is required to maintain the living standards, the job security and the working conditions’.
The current pay package proposals, which RMT has put into dispute, include:
· 2015 – A £500 non-consolidated lump sum payment.
· 2016, 2017, 2018 - An RPI level of inflation increase in pay would be applied for each year.
· The “No Compulsory Redundancy” commitment would be extended until 31st December 2016.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘As far as we are concerned the one off, non-consolidated, lump-sum payment this year is wholly inadequate and fails to recognise the massive pressures staff are working under to keep services running at a time when the company is generating profits of £1bn. It is our members battling to keep Britain moving around the clock and they deserve a fair share from Network Rail for their incredible efforts.
‘In addition, we are extremely concerned that the “No Compulsory Redundancy” commitment only applies to the first two years of the four year deal.
'RMT is in no doubt that this leaves Operations and Maintenance members extremely vulnerable, especially with the continued development of Rail Operating Centres and the on-going cuts programme at Network Rail.’
He added the union remains open to talks to find a ‘fair reward for the high-pressure, safety-critical work’ undertaken by its members.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin has said: ‘I condemn any industrial action that disrupts the travelling public. I want to see Network Rail and the unions back round the negotiating table, hammering out a deal. Rail passengers will not thank the unions for inflicting this unnecessary disruption.’
The Transport Salaried Staffs Association has also balloted its members, with the result due out of Friday.
Dates for a potential strike, which could stop millions of commuters getting to work, have yet to be announced.
The news comes as the newly appointed business secretary Sajid Javid confirmed the Conservative government would make good on its manifesto commitment to ensure workers in essential public services such as transport will need the backing of 40% of eligible union members before they can strike.
The changes to the law are planned to be included in the Queen's Speech, which will take place later this month.
Unions reacted furiously to the news, with TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady, stating: 'The Government's proposals on union ballots will make legal strikes close to impossible. Union negotiators will be left with no more power than Oliver Twist when he asked for more.
'After five years of falling living standards, the prospects for decent pay rises have just got a whole lot worse.'