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RMT in national rail strike warning amid pensions dispute

Union officials said ministers and train companies had failed to give assurances there will be no undermining of the current arrangements.

Mick Cash has criticised ministers in a dispute over pensions (Nick Ansell/PA)
Mick Cash has criticised ministers in a dispute over pensions (Nick Ansell/PA)

The threat of the first national rail strike in more than 20 years is coming a stage closer after the industry’s biggest union announced it is holding a ballot in a row over pensions.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said the Government and train companies had failed to give assurances that there will be no undermining of the current pension arrangements.

The union has written to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, the industry’s regulator, all 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.

If it takes the first national rail strike in a generation to defend our members' pensions, then so be it RMT general secretary Mick Cash

Preparations for a national rail strike vote involving more than 40,000 workers are now being put in hand.

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 co-ordinated industrial action across the rail industry to defend pensions and in the absence of a satisfactory response from Government and the train operators, that is where we are now heading.”

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 Rail Delivery Group

A spokesman for 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.

“Having worked with unions, we have put forward to government a firm proposal to address this deficit in a way that is fair and sustainable for staff, taxpayers and operators, and we await government’s response.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “The threat of a deeply damaging national strike by the RMT underlines their total disregard for passengers.

“Positive discussions are currently taking place between the pensions regulator, the Rail Delivery Group and the trustee to ensure the railway pension scheme is fair, affordable and continues to provide security for railway workers in retirement.

“The absolute focus should be on agreeing a solution, not cynically inflicting misery on passengers.”

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