2022 – Railroad crew braces for struggle, but post-Covid strike may spiral out of control | railway industry

TThe railroad has always been quietly preparing for what has been called the greatest industrial battle in a generation. Now, armed with national suffrage, the RMT rail union must decide whether to pull the trigger.

Its national executive committee will discuss next steps in the coming days after 40,000 Network Rail members and 15 rail companies voted overwhelmingly in favor of the measure. For now, it’s officially calling for more talks with rail companies ÔÇö a somewhat confusing position for some in the industry, who said RMT jumped ahead before collective bargaining began.

However, many expect the first in a series of potential 24-hour disruptions to be scheduled for late June. At a daily cost of 30 million

Senior rail officials looked on in dismay as Shapps said ministers were considering restricting the right to strike – a move that inevitably fueled unions. More thoughtful sections of the government were quietly trying to avoid conflict: chiefs were formulating contingency plans that would not work if all the railway unions joined the strike.

For RMT, there is a significant drop in the unanimous vote because Govia Thameslink Railway employees only support work just before the strike. GTR has three major passenger services, Thameslink, Great Northern and Southern. The latter was the scene of bitter and protracted strikes in 2016-2017, a time when most of his clients were forced to come to London to work anyway.

It has now been established that office workers are able to work from home – a change that should significantly ease political pressure on MPs in the assembly area to end the strikes at any cost. Without the ongoing strikes lasting more than 72 hours, there is little potential to disrupt the supply of goods or electricity, despite dire warnings about the critical role of rail freight.

The strikes in the south are also a reminder that even then, RMT’s train crews alone weren’t enough to force a total stalemateÔÇöor halt the reforms they were fighting against altogether.

An important RMT weapon in any strike this time around will be 20,000 Network Rail members, including about 5,000 Signals, who will be able to keep large parts of the network running. But newer parts of rail ÔÇö such as Thameslink and intercity main lines ÔÇö use digital signals, which can be operated by a handful of employees, allowing managers and other RMTs to maintain limited service.

Other unions can still play a role, including the TSSA, which accounts for a greater proportion of middle management – including emergency workers – and will have an impact on joint action. The Aslef rail drivers’ union is unlikely to operate until autumn – but as the dispute in Scotland shows, even the abolition of work on a rest day could have huge repercussions in an industry with a shortage of drivers.

But the stalemate portends an escalation. There is no clear answer to the changing travel patterns and low revenues of rail, which has a lot of fixed costs. One of the targets may be the railway companies, which continue to generate huge profits. But railroad wages and productivity will come first – and the prospects for a quiet deal with the kind of index-linked wage increase he usually enjoys at all ranks have fallen with hyperinflation have fallen.

This raises the stakes for employees whose wages are dwindling, as well as for ministers who – despite the protests – appear to be heeding Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey, who is living through the cost of the crisis.

The biggest direct political headache may not be that railroads falter – but the outcome will be watched closely by other sections of the public sector, which are also in dire need of a wage increase that will affect the frontline heroes of the pandemic with more justification than railway employees can afford. .