by In Wales
Mon May 12th, 2008 at 08:04:17 AM EST
Working in the trade union movement, my tailored news bulletins could easily give me the impression that everybody is striking everywhere at the moment. We've had the teachers strike very recently, plenty of public sector upheaval over pensions and pay, an oil refinery getting shut down by strikes, media headlines bleating about a Spring of Discontent (oh witty) and now for a potential biggie:
Rail staff threaten national strike - Yahoo! News UK
The threat of the first national rail strike for 14 years was raised when the industry's biggest union announced that it was balloting 17,000 workers for industrial action.
The action would cripple train services across Britain.
Upon DoDo's request I said I'd diary this.
Rail staff threaten national strike - Yahoo! News UK
The Rail Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) said maintenance and signalling staff will vote over the next week on whether to launch a campaign of industrial action in two separate disputes.
The result of both ballots will be known on May 22 and strikes could start a week later, right at the beginning of the holiday season.
The union warned that if the strikes go ahead the railway system would be paralysed.
How incredibly inconvenient. What's so important for them to be striking about?
As usual, pay and conditions following 'harmonisation' - which never results in harmony in any organisation I've dealt with.
Ballot papers will be sent to more than 12,000 infrastructure workers after they rejected an "unacceptable" offer from Network Rail on harmonising terms and conditions.
In another row, 5,000 signal workers and other operational staff will be asked if they want to strike over pay and conditions after turning down an improved offer the union said was worth just 0.1% in the first year of a two-year pay deal.
The harmonisation dispute follows months of talks aimed at achieving a single set of terms and conditions for maintenance staff, many of whom have transferred to Network Rail from private firms.
Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT, said: "The company has been using the talks to drive down our members' conditions and they can hardly be surprised that their pathetic offer was thrown out by a margin of more than 100 to one.
"The company is now saying that our members can stay on their existing terms but they are already moving to sneak inferior conditions in through the back door. We know that means an attack on everyone's terms and conditions, not least because the company is looking to cut its maintenance budget by up to 12% year on year."
And as usual, organisations cutting costs looking at how they can slice away at the salary expenditure first. I wonder how much the bosses get paid for this? The Guardian seeks out the view of Network Rail.
Rail workers to vote on pay strike | UK news | guardian.co.uk
NR said maintenance workers had no reason to strike and talks about terms and conditions were continuing.
Peter Bennett, NR's director of human resources, said the company had made a "fair and reasonable" pay offer to signalling workers worth 4.8% this year and the rate of inflation plus 0.5% next year.
"People in any walk of life would recognise this as a good deal and one that other unions have already accepted as fair. But the RMT wants even more. Their demands are unreasonable."
NR said it was in the middle of talks with unions about standardising more than 50 sets of terms and conditions for maintenance workers which the company inherited several years ago when maintenance work was brought back in-house.
"This work continues and no agreement has been reached, nothing proposed, and nothing is on the table about which to strike," said Bennett.
"We would ask all our employees to carefully consider the issues on the table. On the one hand we have a very fair offer that compares very favourably with wage settlements across the country and on the other there is nothing across the table on which to protest or strike about.
"We would ask employees to use their vote to turn away from damaging industrial action."
The last national strike by signal workers was in 1994 when rail services were disrupted for three months.
The RMT tell us that their ideal win for members would be the terms and conditions below:
National Union of Rail, Maritime & Transport Workers (RMT): 17,000 Network Rail workers balloting for industrial action
RMT's aspirations for Network Rail harmonisation include:
* 35 hour week without loss of pay
* Move towards a 34 hour week and where possible a maximum four-day rostered week over a 13 week cycle
* 28 days on entry plus Bank Holidays
* 30 days after ten years' service plus bank holidays
* No compulsory working on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day
* Agreed enhancements for all the above working
* 39 weeks' full pay
* One grading system
* One set of job descriptions
* Highest possible basic rates with allowances but recognising allowances can be reduced to increase the basic pay
* 100 per cent pensionable pay
Another strike going on - which will mess up my plans for travelling to London...
BBC NEWS | England | Rail staff to strike in pay row
Rail maintenance workers and cleaners have agreed to stage a one-day strike in a row over hours and overtime.
The Rail Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) said 400 of its members at First Great Western will walk out on 18 May.
The union claims the company has refused to pay an enhanced overtime rate or agree a set 35-hour week.
The Union's general secretary Bob Crow said: "The vast majority of First Great Western engineering and cleaning staff are still paid the flat hourly rate for overtime rather than the time-and-a-quarter enjoyed by other staff including train crews."
And First Great Western say they have no idea why the strike is going ahead...
Regional or local strikes have occurred every so often over the last few years but if the ballot finds in favour of a national strike, this could be a very big hit on train services across the UK.
I don't think I find it symbolic of any Spring of Discontent. New Labour haven't done anything to reverse the damage that Thatcher did to the strength of the unions.
Maybe the RMT and it's members are being greedy as Network Rail claim. Or perhaps it is symbolic of the need for unions to be a strong as they can be in the face of a continued attack on workers pay and conditions in the face of the forever bulldozing 'modernisation' and privatisation agenda.