Railway workers from 15 train operating companies have voted in favour of a national rail strike during the summer.
Members of the RMT Union gave what it called the “biggest endorsement for industrial action by railway workers since privatisation”, with 89% of those who took part in the vote in favour of strike action.
Seventy-one percent of its 40,000 members took part in the strike vote, and just 11% voted against.
The union will now use the ballot results to demand talks with Network Rail and the 15 train companies who employ their members. The dispute revolves around a dispute over pay, jobs and safety.
RMT claims that Network Rail plans to cut 2,500 maintenance jobs over the next two years in a bid to make cost savings. Staff at train companies have also been subject to pay freezes and changes to terms and conditions.
The union said its members need to negotiate a pay settlement in light of the cost of living crisis after an effective pay freeze since 2020.
The Department for Transport said it was “hugely disappointing and premature” that the RMT had called for industrial action before entering negotiations.
The union said its leaders would meet to discuss a timetable for strike action from mid-June, a move that could disrupt summer holiday travelling.
General secretary Mick Lynch said: “Today’s overwhelming endorsement by railway workers is a vindication of the union’s approach and sends a clear message that members want a decent pay rise, job security and no compulsory redundancies.
“We sincerely hope ministers will encourage the employers to return to the negotiating table and hammer out a reasonable settlement with the RMT.”
The RMT has already announced a Tube strike this week over plans to cut 600 jobs, with 24-hour action set to take place on 6 June.
Network Rail’s chief executive Andrew Haines accused RMT of “jumping the gun”, claiming strike action would cost the organisation around £30m each day.
He said: “Everyone loses if there’s a strike. We know our people are concerned about job security and pay.
“As a public body we have been working on offering a pay increase that taxpayers can afford, and we continue to discuss this with our trades unions. We urge the RMT to sit down with us and continue to talk, not walk, so that we can find a compromise and avoid damaging industrial action.”
Haines added that travel habits had “changed forever” since the pandemic, and there was a need to modernise rail operations to create a more sustainable future.
“Any industrial action now would be disastrous for our industry’s recovery and would hugely impact vital supply and freight chains. It would also serve to undermine our collective ability to afford the pay increases we want to make,” he said.