A leading rail union is threatening national action over “lethal” pay cuts and a “wholesale attack” on working conditions.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union claim that the Government is using the drop in passenger numbers caused by Covid to “rush through” privatisation.
The union has launched a social media campaign and sent details to all its Network Rail members, warning they face an open-ended pay freeze and a “wholescale attack” on working conditions.
General secretary Mick Cash said: “Under orders from the Government, Network Rail is using the Covid-19 drop in passenger numbers and service levels to rush through the most radical restructuring of the railway infrastructure since privatisation.
“Today RMT is launching the next phase of the campaign to fight to stop those lethal cuts whilst at the same time preparing the ground for a national industrial dispute.
“Rather than the post Covid-19 return to rail recovery which our economy and climate desperately needs, this is a return to the disastrous days of Railtrack.
“Rail staff, who have been essential workers throughout the pandemic, have already had a kick in the teeth with an attempt to impose the Government’s pay freeze.
“Now they are threatened with the loss of thousands of jobs accompanied by a drastic dilution of safety tasks, which will have catastrophic consequences for rail safety.”
Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines has said: “Outdated practices, and the impact of Covid on passenger numbers, show that the railway is not serving passengers, taxpayers or staff as well as it should.
“That’s why we want to work constructively with the unions to create an industry fit for the 21st century that is genuinely safe, efficient and effective for everyone.
“I hope the unions will recognise and embrace the need to modernise and will work with us to improve Britain’s rail network.”
While the Department for Transport said that all parties must work together to deliver a more “modern, efficient and effective workforce”
“Taxpayers have provided unprecedented support for the rail industry, protecting frontline jobs and services, at a cost of more than £11 billion - £22 million a day”, a DfT Spokesperson said.
“Without this, the country would have ground to a halt, organisations involved with the railway would have gone bust, seeing thousands of jobs lost and businesses failing.
“All parties must work together to deliver a more modern, efficient and effective workforce, that ensures our railways are sustainable for the future.”