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Last Updated: Monday, 21 June, 2004, 17:33 GMT 18:33 UK
Millions face rail travel misery
NR Train
RMT union threatening first national rail strike in a decade
Millions of rail commuters are facing travel chaos next week as around 15,000 rail and Tube staff stage a 24-hour walkout in a pay and pensions row.

Network Rail and London Underground maintenance and signalling workers will walk out at 1830 BST on 29 June.

The Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union announced the strike on Monday after talks with Network Rail bosses failed to break an impasse on pensions.

An offer of a 3% pay hike for Tube workers was also rejected by the union.

Bonus row

The RMT has been demanding the reinstatement of a final salary pension scheme for new NR staff and a pay rise for Tube workers.

The directors' decision to go ahead with... telephone-number bonuses will be seen by thousands of NR employees as a grubby reward for pulling the plug on their pension scheme
RMT general secretary Bob Crow
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: "Our ballot for industrial action may have brought Network Rail (NR) to the negotiating table, but on pensions they have simply sat there with their arms folded."

But NR chief executive John Armitt said the strike will cause "major disruption" on Britain's railways.

He said NR had made a new offer to the union last week, but its response had been to call a strike.

Mr Armitt added: "I am very dismayed and surprised that the union has taken this action.

But he said: "We have plans to run as good a service as we can."

RMT members at NR voted by 58% in favour of industrial action.

About 7,500 NR staff and the same number of workers from London Underground and the Tube's private maintenance firm Metronet will take part in the industrial action.

'Messed around'

The union was angered when NR announced earlier this month that its chief executive John Armitt will get 112,320 bonus and his deputy Iain Coucher will receive 99,840, representing 24% of their basic salaries.

Every time that Bob Crow appears, passengers and taxpayers should be afraid
Spokesman for the Strategic Rail Authority
Mr Crow said: "The directors' decision to go ahead with awarding themselves telephone-number bonuses for 'financial efficiency' will be seen by thousands of loyal NR employees as a grubby reward for pulling the plug on their decent pension scheme."

Mr Crow said talks with LU and Metronet had "got us nowhere fast" and workers were fed up with being "messed around."

"We want a date for the implementation of a 35-hour week and a date for the start of a four-day week, and we want serious progress on pay."

But a Metronet spokesman said: "We have given firm commitments on a 35-hour week and a commitment on concessionary travel for graduates and apprentices.

"It seems the RMT is determined to strike come what may. It is the RMT who are not serious about resolving the issue and it is Londoners who will suffer the consequences."

Transport Secretary Alistair Darling said: "At a time when improvements are starting to come through on the Tube and trains the last thing passengers need is a strike.

"It is totally unnecessary."

A spokesman for the Strategic Rail Authority said: "Every time that Bob Crow appears, passengers and taxpayers should be afraid."

George Muir, Director General of the Association of Train Operating Companies, said: "We assure passengers that trains will only be run if it is absolutely safe to do so."

The BBC's Simon Montague
"It's a decade since passengers paid the price of the last national rail strike"

Q&A: Rail strike threat
21 May 04  |  UK

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