Our coming rail strike chaos—When? Why? Who?

A series of rail strikes is expected to lead to what could be the largest outbreak of industrial action since 1989 in Britain.

Unions say their actions, which they claim are a response to pay freezes while inflation soars, could lead to a near shutdown of England’s railways for three days.

The strike will be held during a series major events such as the Glastonbury music Festival, the Headingley Third Test and GCSE exams.

Talks between unions and train operator Network Rail are scheduled, and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) claim to be open to “meaningful negotiations”.


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We take a look at the possibilities, as we believe the action will go ahead.

When will the strikes occur and who will strike?

Network Rail and TfL will be striking for as many as 50,000 workers

  • Thursday 23 June, Saturday 25 June

Although the strike will not affect those working on the London Underground or railway workers, it will affect 40,000 railway workers.

Due to the knock-on effect of staff walkouts, disruption will likely occur throughout the week.

Unite has announced that 1,000 of its members in London, including those on the underground network, will strike to protest low pay and suggestions for cutting pensions.

TfL maintains no plans have been confirmed.

Members of the RMT and Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen, (Aslef), will also be striking.

The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) are currently balloting hundreds of Avanti West Coast staff over a further strike that could happen as early as 13 July. The union’s general secretary Manuel Cortes told Sky News that “a summer of discontent” could take place across Britain’s railways.

Between November 1978 and February 1979 the UK’s “winter of discontent”—a phrase lifted from Shakespeare’s Richard III—was characterised by widespread strikes as the government refused to succumb to unions’ demands for pay rises greater than the limits James Callaghan had imposed to keep inflation in check.

Why are rail workers striking?

Many UK employers have increased wages to meet spiralling staff shortages or inflation increases, but this is not true for the rail sector.

RMT secretary general Mike Lynch has apologised for disruption but has defended the strikes and their timing, telling ITV One’s Good Morning Britain programme: “We don’t follow the comings and goings of Glastonbury or pop concerts. There is never a good moment for a railway disagreement. I want the economy strong. But we can’t passively sit around while our members become poorer and are under the threat of losing their jobs”.

“We haven’t got a pay deal in three years while inflation is rampant. And our members have had enough,” he went on.

Union also warns that 2,500 maintenance positions on the railways may soon be eliminated

Labour’s shadow levelling secretary Lisa Nandy has said that while her party “are with the public”, they support rail workers’ right to strike. “They’re dealing with the same pressures that everyone else is – the cost of food, the cost of soaring inflation rates, taxes going up, and they’re really struggling to make ends meet,” she explained to ITV.

What are your concerns?

The Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Simon Clarke, said Nandy’s stance was “hopeless” and that the strike “is going to cause utter misery for the country. It isn’t justified – it is vital for the rail industry (rescued by the taxpayer during the pandemic) that it is sustainable. We all want it succeed.

Last week health secretary Sajid Javid blasted union leaders for not “acting like adults” telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “When it comes to these strikes, it is very disappointing what the unions have said because it’s not just going to cause misery for the travellers, but it’s actually, I think, the wrong outcome for the workers as well.

“Because anyone working in this industry, any industry for that matter, you want it to be sustainable for the long term. It’s not possible to keep giving it the same level of support it got during the pandemic.”

Javid also refused to rule out future legislation to disincentivise strikes, saying that the transport secretary would “be looking at all options.”

In a speech in Blackpool earlier today, Boris Johnson did nor refer to rail strikes directly, but said the “time has come” to replace inefficient train ticket offices with automated systems in order to cut railway costs.

Huw Merriman, a Conservative MP and chair of the House of Commons Transport Committee, has called for a minimum level of service during strikes. These rules require that about one-third of trains run in EU member states even if industrial action is ongoing.

There are concerns that heavy striking could have an impact on rail freight. Tesco Energy and Puma Energy both expressed concern that this could lead to shortages of petrol and other supply chain problems.

Some have even suggested that fuel delivery delays could cause some areas to lose their lights.

Even the UK’s largest power station, Drax in North Yorkshire, is only able to stockpile 2 to 3 days worth of supplies.

How much do rail workers make?

The discussion has centered on train drivers, but all rail workers will be part of the walkouts.

Trainee salaries for train drivers begin at £24,000 a year and peak at around £60,000 for experienced drivers. They work 35 to 40 hours per week.

Train conductors can earn around £23,000 to £36,000, and generally work 43 to 45 hour weeks

Train station employees earn between £17,500 and £27,000.

Rail track maintenance workers generally take home between £16,500 and £34,000 a year, often working more than 45 hours a week.

According to HMRC the average UK salary across all professions at the beginning of 2022 was £24,600.

The average full-time salary was £31,285 in 2021.

However, whether you are a commuter, a station worker, or a train driver, the planned strikes will change the course of your week if they proceed.

This dispute, despite whether or not the rail unions are able to meet their current demands with inflation rising and wages stagnating is unlikely to be the final.