The UK’s rail union has reportedly announced that it will have “no hesitation” in supporting industrial action if ministers persevere with their plans to freeze the rail workers’ pay for two-years.
It has been reported that transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris has warned UK’s 22 passenger rail companies through a letter that there is no budget to increase wages for their 62,000 workers. He also stated that the subsidies being provided to the industry were not sustainable as passenger numbers have declined to about 15% of what would normally be expected, leading to a drastic fall in revenues.
For the uninitiated, last March, UK rail companies were nationalized after suspending the franchises. In October, the rescue deal was further extended, when contracts of emergency recovery ranging from 6 to 18 months were agreed with rail operators.
According to the official estimates, taxpayer bailout of railways will surpass £10 billion in the year to April. In addition, ministers as well as rail bosses seem to have accepted that the pay freeze of two-years is an inevitable outcome of the current position of the industry. For the record, Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, had announced a public sector pay freeze last November exempting the NHS workers.
Expressing his anger in the matter, general secretary of the RMT union, Mick Cash has stated that the government’s step of extending the public sector pay freeze to the transport sector is not justifiable for the transport workers who have risked their lives to provide smooth mobility. RMT will not hesitate to support a national coordinated action for providing the rightful pay rise to its members, Cash warned.
In this regard, a spokesman from the Department for Transport has stated that the government had introduced an appreciable support package for keeping the services running and protecting frontline jobs. He also added that it would not be fair to raise the burden on taxpayers for funding the pay rises for rail industry, and only under exceptional circumstances the pay rises will be taken into consideration. The Department for Transport is grateful to the members of railway who have worked hard to maintain the rail operations, However, protecting jobs, services and taxpayers through this unprecedented period is on priority, he added.