Further rail strikes over pay and conditions will take place on 3, 5, and 7 November, the RMT union has announced, as general secretary Mick Lynch accused Network Rail of dishonesty in negotiations.
Strike action by RMT rail workers is also planned on the London Underground and Overground on 3 November, in separate disputes.
Although some services will still run, they will only make up about 20% of the total, said the RMT.
The RMT’s current strike mandate runs out on 24 November and it has opened balloting on a further period of strikes to last until spring next year.
Network Rail said it had a two year, 8% pay increase deal “on the table ready to be put to our staff”.
This cynical piece of legislation outlaws effective legal industrial action on our railways” – Mick Lynch, RMT
The effect of some of the forthcoming strikes on services could be limited by new government plans aimed at ensuring a minimum service level must be kept in place during transport strikes. The plans stipulate that if this is not the case, the unions involved will lose legal protections from damages. Employers will specify the workforce required to meet an “adequate service level” and workers who still take strike action will lose their protection from automatic unfair dismissal.
Prime minister Liz Truss claimed it would stop people and businesses being “held to ransom by strike action which has repeatedly crippled our transport network this year”.
Announcing the latest strikes, the RMT said Network Rail had performed a U-turn on an earlier pay offer and “sought to impose job cuts, more unsocial hours and detrimental changes to rosters”.
Network Rail disputes this, and said it had made an improved offer by extending the guarantee of no compulsory redundancies by a further year to January 2025.
“Unfortunately, the leadership of the RMT seem intent on more damaging strikes rather than giving their members a vote on our offer,” Network Rail chief negotiator Tim Shoveller said.
On Wednesday, Shoveller wrote to the RMT’s general secretary Mick Lynch, saying his union had been wrong to accuse the organisation of reneging on its pay offer.
The RMT said its members working for train companies – such as guards – had not been presented with any offer at all on pay, jobs and conditions.
Lynch said the union remained open to talks but remained “steadfast in [its] industrial campaign”.
He also spoke out against government plans for special legislation to combat the rail strikes. He said the new laws would be, if enacted, “autocratic”.
RMT said the legislation was focused solely on the railways and aimed at preventing workers from having the right to withdraw their labour.
Among the threats the RMT identified as most harmful was the loss of members’ legal protections from damages if minimum service were not delivered. Also, specified workers who still take strike action will lose their protection from automatic unfair dismissal.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “This cynical piece of legislation outlaws effective legal industrial action on our railways.
“It is an autocratic move from an increasingly despotic prime minister trying to cling on to her fledging premiership.
“All democrats whether inside or outside parliament must oppose this draconian attempt to clamp down on the fundamental human right to strike.
“RMT and the entire trade union movement will not accept unjust anti-union laws and I call upon all workers in Britain to mount the fiercest civil resistance possible, in the proud traditions of the chartists and suffragettes.”