Biggest rail strikes for a generation will go ahead after pay talks fail

The biggest rail strikes in a generation will go ahead in the coming days after last-ditch pay talks between industry and union bosses failed, the RMT union has announced.

A total of 40,000 RMT staff at Network Rail and 13 train operating companies will bring the network to a virtual standstill for six days as they walk out in a row over low pay rises and potential job cuts.

The industrial action is scheduled for Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, but passengers will face six days of disruption from Tuesday morning until Sunday, because trains will be out of place and night shift staff will not clock on.

“Despite the best efforts of our negotiators, no viable settlements to the disputes have been created,” the RMT said on Saturday.

Network Rail, the public body that runs railway infrastructure, has outlined plans to run only about 4,500 of the normal 20,000 daily trains on strike days, and to shut thousands of miles of track across swaths of the country.

Trains will only run for 11 hours per day, between 7.30am and 6.30pm, and passengers have been urged to only travel if necessary.

On Tuesday RMT workers will also strike on the London Underground, in a separate dispute with Transport for London.

The RMT said the pay rises being discussed, little more than 2-3 per cent because of the public sector pay cap and railway budget cuts, are inadequate at a time when inflation is forecast to hit 11 per cent this year.

“Every worker in Britain deserves a pay rise that reflects the cost of living crises,” the union said.

It also warned of job cuts, although Network Rail bosses believe they can cut around 2,000 jobs through voluntary rather than compulsory redundancies.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has said the railway needs to find savings after receiving £ 16bn of taxpayer support during the pandemic, and that RMT leaders had refused to discuss modernization.

Shapps this week warned that the strikes could cost thousands of jobs if they cause more passengers shift to remote working.

“Don’t risk the industry and your future. Don’t risk striking yourself out of a job, ”Shapps said in a speech this week.

The RMT, which has a mandate to launch strikes for six months, said it was available for future talks “to settle this dispute and ensure our transport system can operate without disruption”.

There are fears within the railway industry that next week’s strikes will be just the first of many this summer. Other unions have also balloted their members over future industrial action.

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