THE first national rail strike for more than 20 years could be looming, as one result of the unresolved dispute over the railway pensions deficit.
The RMT said it was now preparing for a national ballot of its members. The union said it had written to transport secretary Chris Grayling, the ORR, all TOC employers and the Rail Delivery Group ’making it clear that if there is a move to impose reductions in future pension benefits or significantly increase member contributions the union will take the necessary action to defend pensions’.
It was disagreements over the amount of pensions risk which franchise-holders should be expected to take which led to four franchise bids being rejected as ‘non-compliant’ by the Department for Transport in April. Stagecoach and its West Coast Partnership bid partners have now started legal action against the DfT, and a similar claim has been filed by Arriva, whose bid for East Midlands was also rejected.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘If it takes the first national rail strike in a generation to defend our members pensions then so be it. We will not tolerate a position where Chris Grayling and the train companies are playing fast and loose with rail pension rights and RMT members will not be left to pay the price for the collapsing chaos of the rail franchising system.
‘We have made it crystal clear that this union will resist any attack on our members future pension rights either as a result of Government policy or greedy employers wanting to prop up their profits within the failed private franchise model. Any such attack will be met with a campaign of coordinated industrial action across the rail industry.’
The Rail Delivery Group said: ‘The last thing passengers or rail workers want is the misery of a strike.
‘It would be premature in the extreme for RMT to begin hugely disruptive industrial action when conversations about how to address the pension deficit are still going on.’