More than 40,000 workers are set to vote whether to go on strike in what could be the biggest rail industrial action in history.
The National Union of Rail Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) cited Network Rail’s planned cuts as the reason behind the ballot, which will take place between 26 April and 24 May.
The RMT accused the government-owned railway company of planning to cut around 2,500 maintenance jobs as part of a £2bn spending reduction.
“Train operating companies have praised our members for being key workers during the pandemic but have refused to keep staff pay in line with inflation and soaring living costs,” said RMT’s general secretary Mick Lynch.
“As a result, thousands of railway workers have seen their living standards plummet and have run out of patience.”
The strike, which could “bring the country to a standstill,” will be balloted between RMT members working for Network Rail and operators such as Northern Trains, Avanti West Coast and GTR.
Commenting on the strike plans, Network Rail’s regional director Tim Shoveller said the industry cannot keep on relying on government funding and it must cut costs.
“Our railway has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, and even as passenger numbers start to recover, we know travel habits and passenger demand have changed and the industry has to change too,” he said.
“We are disappointed that the RMT has taken this decision and urge them again to work with us, not against us, as we build an affordable railway fit for the future.”