Rail workers to be balloted for strikes over pay, jobs and pensions

Rail workers are to be balloted for strikes over funding for transport in London amid warnings that services will “grind to a halt” without long-term financial planning.

About 10,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) will vote on whether to launch a campaign of industrial action to protect jobs, pay and pensions.

RMT leader Mick Lynch said workers in train operating companies and Network Rail could also be balloted for strikes over the same issues.

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He told a protest outside Parliament the union was preparing to defend jobs, pay and conditions “to the hilt”.

Strikes on London’s Night Tube last weekend were the “first salvo” in the campaign, he said, adding: “This demonstration makes it clear that attacks on pensions, pay freezes and threats to services and jobs is not an acceptable way to treat London’s transport workers who have kept the city moving through a global pandemic.”

The protest, attended by members of the RMT, Aslef, Unite, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association as well as a number of Labour MPs, was held days before a decision is expected on funding for Transport for London (TfL).

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Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA, has warned public transport across London will grind to a halt without a long-term financial plan.

“This is a hugely important demonstration because we know our public transport system in London desperately needs a proper long-term funding settlement from the Government.

“Yet instead, we see ministers attacking TfL services and budgets with the sole aim of undermining London and our brave transport workers who have stood on the front line throughout the Covid crisis.”

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Peter Kavanagh, of Unite, said unions were getting “strike ready”, adding: “There is no way we are going to allow the decimation of our members’ terms and conditions.”

Louise Haigh attended the protest as her first act as shadow transport secretary, saying she stood with the rail unions in their campaign.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has warned an entire Tube line could close if the Government does not grant Transport for London the emergency and long-term funding he says it needs to maintain the capital’s transport services.

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A Government spokesman said: “We have repeatedly shown our commitment to supporting London’s transport network through the pandemic, providing more than £4 billion in emergency funding to Transport for London.

“We will continue to discuss any further funding requirements with TfL and the Mayor, and any support provided will focus on getting TfL back on to a sustainable financial footing in a way that is fair to taxpayers across the country.”

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Sam Hewitt