The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union announced yesterday (13 July) that around 40,000 railway workers are set to strike on 27 July following ongoing disputes around working conditions, job security and pay. Natalie Wood, Solicitor provides an update on the ongoing dispute and discusses the Government’s plans to allow agencies to provide workers to businesses while their staff are on strike.
It has been confirmed by the RMT that Network Rail members will strike from 2am on 27 July and members of train operating companies will go on strike from 12.01am, with the strike ending at 11:59pm on the same day, unless a settlement can be achieved. The planned strike will be the fourth in under a month.
It is expected that around half those set to strike will included signalling workers and track maintenance workers, with the remainder being made up of workers at train operating companies. Members of two further unions, including Aslef (which represents train drivers) and the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association have also voted in favour of strike action.
According to the National Rail it has offered union members: an increase their pay by 5% (in some cases a 10% pay rise) and 75% off rail travel and the same for their immediate families. The RMT, which is seeking a 7% pay increase for its’ members has argued that Network Rail’s offer is insufficient and represents a real terms pay cut. The RMT has also criticised National Rail’s offer on the basis of it being contingent on RMT members agreeing to ‘modernising reforms’.
Train operating companies have also been criticised by the union for failing to provide pay offers or guarantees over job losses, which many train operating companies have declined to make until discussions over terms and conditions have concluded.
What are the Government’s proposals in relation to agencies providing staff during a strike?
Quite distinct from employers being able to directly employ short term staff to cover the work of employees on strike, agencies (or employment businesses) are currently prohibited from doing the same.
On 23 June 2022 the Government announced its’ plans to make legislative changes which would allow agencies to supply temporary workers to cover the roles of workers which they know are taking official industrial or strike action, something which is currently prohibited. The draft Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business (Amendment) Regulations 2022 which seek to implement that change, were put before Parliament on 11 July and were approved by MPs. The bill has been sent to the House of Lords for their approval. It is not clear if or when the House of Lords will approve the bill and whether agencies will be able to step into action on 27 July.
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