STRIKE action is likely to continue at railway stations across the country if agreements cannot be reached, with Salisbury staff feeling “kicked in the teeth by the government”.

Despite this, Wiltshire’s cabinet member for transport said train users will be “bitterly disappointed to see such huge disruption”.

The Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps has recently declared that he will not intervene in the negotiating process.

Today, Salisbury Journal spoke to rail employees who said they did not want to strike but would hold out until their terms and conditions were secured.  

Steve Dudman, a signal engineer said: “Grant Shapps is going on rather a lot about not wanting to get involved in Network Rail/ RMT disputes. He doesn’t seem to mind doing lots of interviews and making derogatory and incorrect comments all the time stating we don’t want to accept new technology.

“The whole part of the railway industry is that we use technology and part of my job is implementing it.  The signalling system itself is very advanced and is a highly complicated piece of technology. As signal engineers, we operate a key role in keeping everyone safe. if I make a mistake, I go to prison, I don’t have to worry about my job, I would be prosecuted.”

Steve Pinkney – Network Rail Signaller and RMT staff representative said: “None of us want to strike. I lose a day’s pay today, but the pay rise isn’t the main thing. We are basically trying to keep our terms and conditions.”

A representative of one of the guard’s grades said: “We are all on strike for different reasons. Signallers, and network rail are all facing big redundancies. We are doing over 60 hours a week now, and the pay grade is not brilliant for the hours and shifts we work so any pay increase would help with the cost-of-living increases.

“Throughout the covid issues, we were here every day of the week, as key workers, and now we have been really kicked in the teeth by the government.”

Inflation is rising by 9 percent a year which is the highest rate for decades. It may soon reach 10 percent which is putting pressure on peoples’ abilities to cope financially.

Steve Dudman added: “The claims made about salary in the media is an issue because many of the operatives are on £21,000 a year and company policy, and our maintenance modernisation is not that they want to fire and rehire, but they want to change job titles, and then introduce lower salaries and poorer working conditions.   

“For the rest of us, they want to reduce our terms and conditions…more night working, more weekend working, which is something we already do on a voluntary basis. There is a lot to dispute really that members of public don’t understand…and why would they?”

Cllr Dr Mark McClelland, cabinet member for transport said: "Commuters and other rail users will be bitterly disappointed to see such huge disruption across Wiltshire's rail network this week. The government has provided enormous support to the rail sector during the pandemic, and it is hugely irresponsible for the RMT to have taken this step. This is a retrograde move that will reduce confidence in the railway at the exact moment when we are trying so hard to boost passenger numbers."

The strike will continue on Thursday June 24 and Saturday June 26 unless an agreement is reached.

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