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The UK will soon face the ‘biggest rail strike in modern history’

The RMT union has voted overwhelmingly in favour of a nationwide walkout

Ed Cunningham
Written by
Ed Cunningham

British commuters and train travellers, buckle up: a union has voted for what will likely be the biggest rail strike in modern UK history. Nearly 40,000 railway workers across the country are now likely to strike due to disputes over jobs and pay.

Members of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) took part in a ballot on taking strike action, with 89 percent of those balloted voting in favour (out of a turnout of 71 percent). The action will affect national rail operator Network Rail but also 14 other regional lines, from CrossCountry and TransPennine Express to LNER and Southeastern. In other words, huge areas of the UK rail network are likely to be brought to a standstill.

So why is the strike being called? Well, the RMT mainly wants to prevent Network Rail from cutting at least 2,500 maintenance jobs, which is part of a plan to cut £100 million per year. However, most railway workers have also faced pay freezes since 2020, as well as changes to the terms and conditions of their contracts. In the face of rising inflation and the increasing cost of living, the RMT would argue that a pay freeze actually amounts to a pay cut.

Network Rail, on the other hand, says it is trying to modernise its services and save money following huge losses during the pandemic.

While a strike will, undoubtedly, cause rather a lot of frustration for rail users across the country, the RMT clearly has its reasons. Plus, the disruption is kind of the point.

There is, of course, still a chance that the strike may not go ahead at all. The RMT may simply use its mandate from the ballot to strengthen its stance in negotiations. If a strike does go ahead, it’s likely to be from mid-June onwards.

In other words, Brits could be in for a chaotic few months. So here’s hoping Network Rail and the RMT resolve their disputes before it comes to that, eh?

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