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Could train services grind to a halt this summer?

Written by: Emma Lunn
Rail workers are threatening to strike over a threat to jobs at National Rail.

If the industrial action goes ahead, it could throw the holidays plans of thousands into disarray as more Brits chose to stay in the UK while the international travel situation remains unclear.

Network Rail is at loggerheads with unions over rumours that it plans to cut thousands of jobs just as the country emerges from the pandemic.

The state-controlled operator of the country’s railway infrastructure wants to shake up its workforce as part of reforms proposed in the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail review, published last week.

The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) has written to the boss of Network Rail warning of “widespread disruption” across the country’s railways unless an agreement is reached on a no compulsory redundancies guarantee.

Manuel Cortes, TSSA general secretary, said: “If Network Rail bosses think leaking their plans to hit our members’ jobs while we remain in the crucial Rail Industry Recovery Group (RIRG) talks is clever then they are badly mistaken.

“Let me be crystal clear, any attempt to use compulsory redundancies will be met by industrial action ballots and trains will be coming to a halt across the network this summer.

“There’s an easy way to ensure this does not happen – and that is for NR to give a no compulsory redundancies guarantee until at least 31 December this year. Unless this is forthcoming by the start of June we will be in dispute with the company.

“Our members have put their lives on the line over the past year while we fought this terrible virus. Their employers need to act responsibly and give them the peace of mind they need as they go to work each day keeping our railways safe for all.”

In his letter to Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines, Cortes says that pressing ahead with plans for reform at the moment is “both unnecessary, in the light of continuing talks about the future shape of our industry and will be taken as a sign of bad faith at a time when our members have done so much to keep our railways running in the toughest of times”.

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