South West Trains Workers To Be Balloted Over Strike Action

Union's plans condemned as making "life harder at time when we can least afford it”

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More than 3,500 members of Britain’s biggest rail union working at three major train-operating companies are to be balloted for strike action over job losses.

Co-ordinated RMT ballots in separate disputes over job cuts at National Express East Anglia, South West Trains and First Capital Connect raise the prospect of simultaneous strikes on key commuter lines into London.

Postal votes in all four disputes will open on March 3 and close on March 17.

The same balloting timetable has also been scheduled in a further separate dispute at London Overground, over what unions have called 'a breakdown in industrial relations'.

“Our members are facing industry-wide attacks on their jobs by privateer train operators who between them have siphoned tens of millions out of the railways, and our only possible response is to co-ordinate resistance to them,” RMT general secretary Bob Crow said.

“The scale of cuts cannot be excused as good housekeeping. It is a full-scale onslaught that sacrifices experienced and loyal rail staff simply to keep profits up, and it can only undermine service and safety."

He added, “The government has said it will ride out the recession by investing in public projects, but if it allows train-operating companies to decimate jobs it will be subsidising redundancies while the privateers continue to pay fat dividends to their shareholders.

“The time has come to draw a line in the sand."

Speaking after the RMT announced its plans to ballot members, transport spokesman for London Assembly Conservative Group Richard Tracey said: “It is unbelievably selfish for the RMT to even be considering this strike. In this recession, Londoners are already struggling, but the RMT clearly have no regard for the commuters who depend on their trains to get to work.

"This rail union are trying to flex their muscles by holding train operating companies and commuters to ransom. But strike action will make life harder for everyone at a time when we can least afford it.”

February 20, 2009