Railways union threatens national strike action

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT Union) is preparing to ballot for a national rail strike after failing to receive government assurances over pensions.

The union said it is preparing for its first strike since it was privatised 20 years ago, after the government and the train companies failed to deliver “cast iron assurances” that current pension arrangements will not be undermined.

It said has written to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, The Pensions Regulator (TPR) and the bosses of the UK’s train operators informing of the threat.

RMT Union general secretary, Mike Cash, said: "If it takes the first national rail strike in a generation to defend our members pensions then so be it. We will not tolerate a position where Chris Grayling and the train companies are playing fast and loose with rail pension rights and RMT members will not be left to pay the price for the collapsing chaos of the rail franchising system.”

According to the union, the government has failed to respond to requests from RMT.

"We have made it crystal clear that this union will resist any attack on our members future pension rights either as a result of government policy or greedy employers wanting to prop up their profits within the failed private franchise model,” he said.

Cash added that any “attack” will be met with a campaign of “coordinated industrial action” across the rail industry.

It is the second time in two months the union has threatened national strike action, following concerns raised in April over the future of the Railways Pension Scheme (RPS) and the news that Stagecoach was disqualified from bidding on rail franchises.

RPS is estimated to have a deficit of up to £7.5bn across all of its sections.

A Department for Transport spokesperson, said: “The threat of a deeply damaging national strike by the RMT underlines their total disregard for passengers.

“Positive discussions are currently taking place between TPR, the Rail Delivery Group and the trustee to ensure the railway pension scheme is fair, affordable and continues to provide security for railway workers in retirement.

“The absolute focus should be on agreeing a solution, not cynically inflicting misery on passengers.”

A spokesperson for The Pensions Regulator said: "We are working closely with the scheme trustees, Rail Delivery Group and the Department for Transport to ensure the best possible outcome for pension scheme members.

"This work is to ensure the scheme is adequately funded so that members receive the benefits they expect. We will not be commenting further at this stage."

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