Hundreds gather in support of rail and postal workers’ strike action

Network Rail workers who are members of RMT began the first of two 24-hour walkouts on Saturday.

People join rail workers at a rally in Edinburgh
People join rail workers at a rally in Edinburgh

Hundreds of people braved the rain in Edinburgh on Saturday morning to show their support for rail and postal workers taking strike action.

Aslef and the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) voted “resoundingly” to take industrial action against the companies they say have failed to give workers a pay rise matching inflation.

Network Rail workers who are members of RMT began the first of two 24-hour walkouts on Saturday and will do so again on Saturday October 8.

ScotRail passengers faced disruption across the network on Saturday, with just a handful of services across the central belt and east coast running.

While the rail operator usually runs about 2,150 services per day, over the next two Saturdays it will only run 379 trains on 11 routes across the central belt, Fife and the borders.

ScotRail drivers are not striking but drivers across other companies such as LNER and the TransPennine Express will walk out on Saturday.

David Simpson, ScotRail service delivery director, said the knock-on effects of the industrial action would impact services on both Sunday October 2 and Sunday October 9 as well.

Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said: “Despite our best efforts to compromise and find a breakthrough in talks, rail unions remain intent on continuing and co-ordinating their strike action.

“This serves only to ensure our staff forgo even more of their pay unnecessarily, as well as causing even more disruption for our passengers and further damaging the railway’s recovery from the pandemic.

“Passengers who want to travel this Saturday, and indeed next Wednesday and next Saturday, are asked only to do so if absolutely necessary. Those who must travel should expect disruption and make sure they check when their last train will depart.”

Meanwhile, postal workers from the Communication Workers Union (CWU) also walked out on Saturday in an ongoing dispute over changes in working terms and conditions.

Kevin Lindsay, Aslef’s Scottish organiser, was at Edinburgh Waverley on Saturday morning to show members his support.

“What we’re saying is we deserve a pay rise,” he said.

“We’ve not had a pay rise on the railways for three years on our cross-border services and that’s not acceptable.

“We’ve tried to sit down with the employer to reach an agreement.

Kenny McAskill MSP joins rail workers on the picket line
Kenny MacAskill MSP (with microphone) joined rail workers on the picket line (Lauren Gilmour/PA)

“This is a politically-driven dispute.

“We’ve targeted the Conservative Party conference: make it more difficult for them, make them suffer the same as commuters are having to suffer, the same as ordinary people are having to suffer.

“The solidarity and the strength of feeling is huge. Look at the numbers who have turned up here today.

“The support we’re getting from members of the public is unbelievable.

“What’s jumping out loud and clear is Great Britain needs a pay rise.”

Jane Loftus, from Liverpool CWU, said Royal Mail was a “private company delivering a public service”.

She said the public had been giving their support in droves.

“I have never known a dispute like it,” she said.

“People are enjoying themselves and uniting together on the picket lines.

“The public have been giving us crisps, drinks, biscuits, bringing their kids down.”

The CWU claims Royal Mail is asking postal workers to trade terms and conditions for a pay rise.

General secretary Dave Ward said the union will be offering Royal Mail a way to get back into “serious talks” and the chance to suspend industrial action if progress is made.

Jane Loftus from CWU takes part in the protest
Jane Loftus from CWU takes part in the protest (Lauren Gilmour/PA)

He said it would be “useful” if the Government explained its position about the future of Royal Mail amid union fears the company is being positioned for a takeover.

Mr Ward said new Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg had told the union it could meet one of his department’s officials.

“Postal workers across the UK now face the fight of their lives to save their jobs and the service they provide to every household and business in the UK.

“We call on everyone to stand with their local postal worker.”

Royal Mail insists the strike is a “reckless pursuit” and say they are managing the disruption.

A spokesperson said: “The CWU can be in no doubt of the impact its reckless pursuit of 19 days of industrial action has on our weakened financial position and the job security of its members.

“Royal Mail is losing £1 million a day. We operate in a competitive market and our customers have choices. Continued strike action will force our customers to make those choices sooner rather than later.

“Our invitation to enter into talks through Acas remains open. Our people need the CWU leadership to recognise the reality of the situation Royal Mail faces as a business, and to engage urgently on the changes required to adapt to customer demands in a highly competitive market.

“We apologise to our customers for the inconvenience the CWU’s continued strike action will cause.”

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