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Railways Virgin Rail strike ‘solidly supported’ by workers

STRIKES on Virgin West Coast were “solidly supported” by workers yesterday, rail unions said as they warned of further action over the Christmas period.

Members of rail unions RMT and TSSA walked out for 24 hours yesterday on north Wales and Chester lines in a dispute over pay and conditions.

Union members are angry over a pay deal which offered low-paid workers far less than drivers.

Under the offer, drivers were given a 9 per cent pay rise and a one-off payment of £500 while lower-paid workers received just 3.6 percent, amounting to as little as £10 per week for some staff.

Virgin Trains director Phil Whittingham accused the union’s leadership of attempting to cause disruption during the busy festive season.

However TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes urged Mr Branson to “drop the Scrooge act and get this dispute settled so peace is restored on the railways by Christmas.”

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said members were standing solid and determined in their fight for workplace equality and justice.

“Virgin is a wealthy outfit and there is no excuse whatsoever for Sir Richard Branson to ‎under value and discriminate against the very same staff whose hard work finances his luxury lifestyle.

“Virgin should stop trying to play divide and rule and should address the fundamental issue of workplace equality which is at the heart of this dispute,” he said.

Mr Cortes apologised to rail passengers but explained that Virgin West Coast employs around 1,400 staff to run its operation, all of whom want to be treated fairly.

He accused Mr Branson of behaving like a “jilted lover,” refusing to speak to his workforce and pointed to the bumper £55 million a year profits Virgin is raking in.

"Whether he’s sulking or thinking he’s union-busting from his sunbed on Necker Island, the only thing we get from Virgin West Coast when we ask to meet them is the sound of silence,” Mr Cortes said.

“But this mess is Virgin’s making and it will only be settled by negotiation.”

Further strike action is planned for next Friday, December 22, however both unions said they were available for talks to resolve the dispute.

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