RMT members back further strike action in row with train operating companies
Commuters could be hit by further disruption after members of the biggest rail workers' union voted for more strikes.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) said staff working for 14 train companies overwhelmingly backed a mandate to take more industrial action for the next six months as part of a long-running dispute over pay and conditions.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said the result was a de-facto referendum on the pay offer that has been put to them.
"It is clear from these results that members are not prepared to accept a pay offer based on mass job cuts and major attacks on their terms and conditions," he said.
"This sends a clear message to the employers that the huge anger amongst rail workers is very real and they need to recognise that fact, face reality and make improved proposals.
"They need to get around the table with RMT and negotiate in good faith for a better deal for rail workers."
Unions involved in disputes have to re-ballot their members every six months to legally continue with strikes and other forms of action.
The RMT has already announced a strike against train companies on 13 May, the day of the Eurovision Song Contest final in Liverpool.
The decision came after union leaders rejected the latest pay offer from the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents train operating companies.
Mr Lynch said the RDG had "torpedoed" negotiations by reneging on a 9% offer the union had been considering for several weeks, by making the first year's 5% pay deal contingent on withdrawing its mandate for strike action.
The RMT said that would remove its "industrial leverage at the negotiating table" and it had no choice but to strike.
Train drivers from the Aslef union, who are involved in a separate dispute with the RDG, have also announced strikes on Friday 12 May, Wednesday 31 May, and Saturday 3 June - the latter on the day of the football cup final and the Epsom Derby.
But the RDG have called the action "unnecessary" and accused the unions of "senselessly targeting both the final of Eurovision and the FA cup final".
The company hit out at the RMT after the latest announcement, saying while results of the ballot are "disappointing, sadly it is also unsurprising".
"The vote that really matters is for the deal on the table developed in conjunction with RMT negotiators but then subsequently rejected out of hand in unflattering terms by their executive committee.
"The RMT membership would be forgiven for wondering why they are only ever offered a vote to extend this dispute and a never vote to end it."
In February, the RMT's executive committee rejected what it called a "dreadful" offer for a 5% payrise backdated to January last year and a 4% pay rise for 2023. Mr Lynch said changes to working practices that came alongside the deal would result in thousands of job losses and make the railways less safe.
But he was criticised by unions and the government for not putting the offer to a vote of the RMT membership.