Britain is staring at the prospect of wide rail traffic disruptions this summer as a prominent trade union said it has served notices to ballot over 6,000 staff at Network Rail.
Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) said its members will vote on whether to go on strikes over pay, work conditions and job security.
The announcement comes as members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Network Rail and 13 train operators have already decided to go on strike for three days from 21 June.
TSSA’s ballot opens on June 20 and closes on July 11 and in the event of a yes vote, strike action could take place on July 25.
The vote is part of an escalating dispute with Network Rail and the wider rail industry. TSSA’s members work in operational, control, management and safety roles on rail services across Britain.
The trade union is demanding a guarantee that there will be no compulsory redundancies for the current year or unilateral changes to terms and conditions. It has also sought a pay increase for the staff to cope with the rising cost of living.
Network Rail staff last had a pay rise between two and three years ago and also worked throughout the coronavirus pandemic as key workers.
TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said there could be a “summer of discontent” across the railways if Network Rail fails to come to the table to face the concerns of their staff.
“Network Rail staff are asking for basic fair treatment: not to be sacked from their jobs; a fair pay rise in the face of a cost-of-living crisis; and no race to the bottom on terms and conditions. Fat cat bosses have so far refused these completely reasonable requests, leaving us with no option other than to ballot for industrial action, something which is always a last resort.”
Cortes said the trade union members were forced to go for the ballot.
“Network Rail only responded to our requests for pay talks – made before Christmas – when we moved the issue in April and have dragged their heels at every stage. Our members have had enough. Make no mistake, we are preparing for all options, including coordinated strike action.”
However, Network Rail urged TSSA not to jump on the “RMT strike bandwagon.”