The RMT has said it is set for a nationwide rail dispute with Network Rail in response to the ‘threat of thousands of rail worker redundancies and a 50% cut in rail safety maintenance work'.
The infrastructure operator company did not deny the claims, but said it wanted to ‘work constructively with the unions to create an industry fit for the 21st century’.
The union said it was moving to a ‘national dispute’ footing as Network Rail is planning for thousands of job losses by this September.
The union accused that Network Rail of preparing ‘a wholescale dilution of safety standards, including halving the frequency of safety critical maintenance work’ and claimed the operator was attempting to implement an open-ended pay freeze on workers and a ‘wholescale attack on working conditions’.
General secretary Mick Cash said: ‘Under orders from the Government, Network Rail is using the COVID-19 drop in passenger numbers and service levels to rush through the most radical restructuring of the railway infrastructure since privatisation.
'Rather than the post COVID-19 return to rail recovery, which our economy and climate desperately needs, this is a return to the disastrous days of Railtrack, where cutting costs and corners led to a string of fatal accidents.
'I will be seeking an urgent meeting with the secretary of state, Grant Shapps, but in the meantime RMT has no alternative to move to a national dispute footing to protect the livelihoods of our members and the lives of rail passengers and workers.’
Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines said: ‘Outdated practices, and the impact of COVID on passenger numbers, show that the railway is not serving passengers, taxpayers or staff as well as it should.
‘That’s why we want to work constructively with the unions to create an industry fit for the 21st century that is genuinely safe, efficient and effective for everyone. I hope the unions will recognise and embrace the need to modernise and will work with us to improve Britain’s rail network.’