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THE leader of the biggest rail workers’ union has warned of a national strike in a dispute over pensions.
Rail union RMT’s general secretary Mick Cash spoke out against any move to cut benefits or increase employee contributions.
In a letter to RMT members Mr Cash highlights news that Stagecoach has been disqualified from recent rail franchise bids as a result of the company putting in non-compliant bids in relation to pensions.
He said: “This has quite understandably raised concerns amongst all our train operating company (TOC) members in respect of their future pension benefits.
“Your union is of the view that the railway pension scheme is fundamentally sound and in good shape.
“The only reason there now appears to be an issue is a new approach from the pension regulator and the government, which is threatening the scheme.
“Ministers have decided that employers will be given financial assistance from the government with any future deficit while members of the scheme will still have to meet their share of any deficit in line with the railway pension scheme shared cost arrangement.
“This is not just an attack on our members future pension rights, but also puts in doubt the long-term future of the railway pension scheme.”
Mr Cash said he has written to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, the industry’s regulator, all TOC employers and the Rail Delivery Group to make it clear that, if there is a move to reduce future pension benefits or significantly increase member contributions, the union will take the “necessary action” to defend pensions.
He insisted: “Any such attack will be met with a campaign of co-ordinated industrial action across the rail industry to defend pensions.”
The issue will be discussed at the RMT’s annual conference which opens in Manchester today.
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