Railway workers on second strike of the week after talks failed

Thousands of railway workers today went on strike for the second week after talks failed to resolve the ongoing dispute over wages, jobs and conditions.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) in Network Rail and 13 train operators will take industrial action across the UK, crippling services. Only one of the five trains will run and will run mainly on the main lines during the day.

Before the strike, the government announced plans to change the law to enable businesses to supply skilled agency workers to address staff shortages during industrial action. Ministers pointed out that under existing trade union laws, employment businesses are prohibited from supplying temporary agency workers with cover for strikers, adding that this could have a “disproportionate effect”.

The law would repeal “burdened” legal restrictions, giving businesses affected by the strike action the freedom to tap into the services of employment businesses that can provide skilled, temporary agency workers in less time, the government said. Network Rail welcomed the move but Labor and unions denounced it as a “recipe for disaster”.

The RMT accused Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps of “ruined” talks. RMT Secretary General Mick Lynch said: “Grant Shapps has ruined these negotiations by not allowing Network Rail to withdraw a letter threatening redundancies for our 2,900 members.

“Unless the government opens up network rail and train operating companies, it will not be possible to negotiate a settlement. We will continue our industrial drive until we reach an agreement that provides job security and wage increases for our members that tackles the growing cost-of-living crisis. Mr Shapps hit back, saying the RMT’s claim was a “lie”.

Meanwhile, members of the Asleph, a driver’s union in Greater Anglia, will go on a separate strike on Thursday over wages. The company, which is also affected by the RMT strike, advised passengers to travel only if necessary.

The Transport Salaried Employees Association (TSSA) announced that its members at Merseyrail have accepted a 7.1% salary offer. General Secretary Manuel Cortés said: “This clearly shows that our union, and that of the sister union, are in no way an obstacle in finding the necessary solutions to avoid the heat of discontent on the railways.

“Rather, it is the government that is bent on digging in its heels. Grant Shapps would be wise to start talking seriously with our union as we vote above and below ground for industrial action on our railways.

A Rail Delivery Group spokesperson said: “With passenger numbers still at only 80% of pre-pandemic levels, the industry is committed to giving a fair deal on salaries while taking no more than its fair share from the taxpayers. We can only achieve this by making improvements – such as providing better services on Sundays – that reflect the changing needs of commuters so that we can attract more back.

“We call upon the RMT leadership to continue talking to us so that we can secure a prosperous long-term future for the Railways and its employees. Our advice to passengers remains the same, to travel by rail only if absolutely necessary, travel Check before committing and make sure you know the timings of your first and last trains.”

A spokesman for Network Rail said: “We are disappointed that RMT has again decided to walk away from negotiations without agreeing a deal. We remain available to negotiate – day or night – and to provide for our passengers. And we will do everything to avoid disruption. As a result of this unnecessary and premature strike, train services will look exactly as they did on Tuesday – starting later in the morning and much earlier in the evening (around 6.30 am) .

“We are asking passengers to please check before you travel, be aware of when your last available train is departing, and only travel by train if necessary.”

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