Friday 28 June 2019 1:51 pm

Union ballots staff over 'deeply damaging' nationwide rail strike

Train drivers are set to vote on the first nationwide rail strike in a generation as union bosses lashed out against the government over pension arrangements.

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The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union will ballot thousands of members on whether to hold national industrial action over fears pension benefits could be cut.

The RMT said the government and train chief have failed to offer “cast iron assurances” that members’ pension contributions will not significantly increase, or that pension benefits will be cut in future years.

If workers vote in favour of action, it would be the first national strike since privatisation more than 20 years ago.

“If it takes the first national rail strike in a generation to defend our members’ pensions then so be it,” said RMT general secretary Mick Cash.

“We will not tolerate a position where Chris Grayling and the train companies are playing fast and loose with rail pension rights and RMT members will not be left to pay the price for the collapsing chaos of the rail franchising system.”

He added: “We have made it crystal clear that this union will resist any attack on our members future pension rights either as a result of government policy or greedy employers wanting to prop up their profits within the failed private franchise model.”

“Any such attack will be met with a campaign of coordinated industrial action across the rail industry to defend pensions and in the absence of a satisfactory response from government and the train operators that is where we are now heading.”

It is not yet clear when and where the nationwide rail strike could take place.

A DfT spokesperson said: “The threat of a deeply damaging national strike by the RMT underlines their total disregard for passengers. 

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“Positive discussions are currently taking place between the pensions regulator, the Rail Delivery Group and the trustee to ensure the railway pension scheme is fair, affordable and continues to provide security for railway workers in retirement.

“The absolute focus should be on agreeing a solution, not cynically inflicting misery on passengers.”