British rail workers' unions call rare strike

British rail workers' unions called for national strikes from April 6 to 9, just after the Easter holidays, in bad news for the Labour government.

British rail workers' unions call rare strike

British rail workers' unions on Thursday called for national strikes from April 6 to 9, just after the Easter holidays, in bad news for the Labour government weeks before an election.

The walkouts by maintenance and signal workers over planned job cuts and changes to working practices at Network Rail, operator of the rail infrastructure, would be the first national rail strike in 16 years.

In a joint news conference, two transport unions said the plans by Network Rail compromised passenger safety. They left a door open for further negotiations with Network Rail management to avert the walkouts.

"We do not want to spoil the Easter holidays .. We want to sort out our members' real concerns out there and this still gives us an opportunity of nine days of trying to resolve the dispute," said Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT union.

"However our members have been patient enough and we can't have a situation where the company keep on coming up with proposals which will deteriorate and dilute safety in the railway network," he told a news conference.

The unions said maintenance workers would strike from the morning of April 6 to the late evening of April 9, while signallers would stage two four-hour stoppages a day, during peak hours, for four days starting from April 6.

Network Rail denied that the proposed job cuts and other changes would have any impact on safety.

"The proposed strike is not about safety. Britain's railway is safer than ever. The issue of safety is a smokescreen from a union leadership stuck in the steam age," it said in a statement.

"Our contingency plans are well advanced and aim to keep as many trains running as possible. But a national rail strike will have a severe impact on services and on Britain," it said.

The disputes have created a rash of negative headlines and talk of a "spring of discontent" ahead of a national election expected on May 6. The Labour Party, which has strong links with unions, is trailing the opposition Conservatives in the polls.

Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 25 Mart 2010, 21:07
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