A picket line was back in place outside York Station today for the second one-day strike this week.
Around 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Network Rail and 13 train operators walked out again today after talks failed to resolve a bitter row over pay, jobs and conditions.
Just one in five trains are running, and they are mostly restricted to main lines, with around half of the network closed.
On the York picket line, Peter Thackray, who works in train presentation, said they had enjoyed “really good support” from the public, with just two negative comments during the first strike on Tuesday.
Karen Thackray, a train conductor, said: “Nobody wants to strike. We don’t want to disrupt our passengers. Our passengers are our business.
“But we’re months down the line with these pay negotiations and they aren’t going anywhere.”
They said they would go back to work tomorrow if meaningful negotiations between the union, government and train operators got underway.
Karen said one of their main worries was the threat to guards on trains. “It might be OK when everything’s working fine, but when something goes wrong, surely you need that extra pair of hands?”
Peter said there was another critical role of guards. “We have vulnerable people who actually take free tickets and travel whenever they need to get away from domestic violence.
“If they get rid of guards off the train, who’s going to look after these vulnerable people? Who’s going to get the disabled people onto the trains?”
Pay a key issue
Pay is another big issue. The RMT is asking for a 7% pay rise and has rejected an offer of 2% with a further 1% tied to job cuts.
Peter and Karen said they hadn’t had a pay rise for three years, and didn’t ask for one during the pandemic.
But now the cost of living crisis was beginning to bite, particularly for rail workers at the lower end of the pay scale.
Peter says he earns £20K for a job with anti social hours, and involving safety issues such as clearing up used needles.
Meanwhile, new staff were being put on a downgraded pension scheme compared to existing workers, they told YorkMix.
So how long were they prepared to strike for? “I’ve got no end time,” Peter said. “I’m on one of the lower paid jobs so I am quite happy to stay out as long as it takes.”
Karen said she hoped the dispute was settled “sooner rather than later because it’s a difficult thing for everybody.
“Everybody who’s supporting the strike is not getting paid. Passengers, obviously it’s a massive disruption for them – so nobody wins.
A Network Rail spokesman said today: “We remain available for talks – day or night – and will do everything we can to avoid further disruption for our passengers.”