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Rail services crippled as 40,000 RMT members walk out for second day

Government accused of putting obstacles in the way of negotiations between Network Rail and the union

RMT members have once again taken to picket lines, in a show of industrial strength, on the second day of national rail strike action.

Over 40,000 members are on strike over a multiyear pay freeze and a lack of job security, with Network Rail and the train operating companies threatening thousands of compulsory redundancies.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Our members are leading the way in standing up for all working people trying to get a pay rise and some job security.

"In a modern economy, workers need to be properly rewarded for their work, enjoy good conditions and have the peace of mind that their job will not be taken away from them.

"[Transport Secretary] Grant Shapps needs to get in the room or get out of the way, so we can negotiate with these companies who we have successfully struck dozens of deals with previously.

"What we cannot accept is thousands of railway workers being thrown on the scrapheap after being praised as heroes during Covid.

"RMT will continue its industrial campaign until a negotiated settlement is reached."

Talks continue with Network Rail and the train operating companies, and strike action scheduled for Saturday remains on.

Important railway stations including London Euston, London Paddington, Edinburgh Waverley and Liverpool Lime Street saw fewer travellers amid the disruption today.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has claimed that there is a need for reforms of the rail system, calling the strikes “unnecessary” and a “terrible idea.”

His “reforms” involve withdrawing billions in funding and axing thousands of staff.

The government has been accused of putting obstacles in the way of a deal, which it has denied, and has been criticised for not meeting with rail workers’ leaders for three months ahead of the strikes to avoid the industrial action.

RMT pointed to Shapps “wrecking” negotiations by preventing Network Rail from withdrawing a letter which threatens redundancy for 2,900 members of the union.

Mr Shapps has called the claim from RMT a “lie.”

In Leeds, strikers were joined by Leeds East Labour MP Richard Burgon as more Labour MPs showed solidarity with striking rail workers despite an order by party leader Sir Keir Starmer not to support striking workers on picket lines.

Sir Keir said MPs could face punishment if they do.

Mr Burgon said he was proud to attend the picket line to show support for railway staff.

He told the Morning Star: “The government is treating RMT and railway workers appallingly.

“People are living through a cost-of-living emergency. Prices are soaring and people’s wages are losing their value.

“The reason for inflation is not [that] people have money in their pockets. They don’t.

“Railway workers and workers more widely in private and public sectors do not only deserve a pay rise.

“They need a pay rise. We cannot carry on allowing wages to go down so that profits can go up.”

Also supporting the Leeds pickets were members of Unite Community union, and the city’s Acorn tenants’ union.

More strike action is likely on the northern rail network as TSSA announced a ballot of its members working at Trans Pennine Express.

The union is demanding a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies for 2022, no unagreed changes to terms and conditions, and a pay increase which reflects the rising cost of living.

General secretary Manuel Cortes said: “It’s time the government changed course.

“Instead of making cuts across our railway the DfT should either give Trans Pennine and other companies the signal to make us a reasonable offer, or ministers should come to the negotiating table and speak to us directly.

“The alternative is a fast-approaching summer of discontent across our rail network.”

Voting begins on June 29 and closes on July 13.

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