By a an RMT member
The RMT has called a ballot for industrial action of its 7,000 members at Network Rail. These workers include signalling, maintenance and station staff. The ballot over the closure of the final salary pension scheme, pay, and travel facilities, will run from 27 April to 17 May. It raises the prospect of the first national rail stoppage in a decade.
Signal staff will be the cutting edge in this dispute, and it is important to get the right strategy for this action from the start. During the last signalworkers' dispute the RMT did not ballot supervisory staff and they were used in signal boxes. Similarly, untrained staff who were members of the TSSA were asked to go into signal boxes. One good sign this time is that TSSA too may ballot its members over these issues.
Another tactic in the dispute will be using health and safety law. If signal boxes are not being safely operated, train drivers have the right not to take trains out.
We do not yet know what kind of industrial action will come at the end of the ballot, if it goes in favour of action. It could just be 6-, 12- or 24-hour stoppages which can easily dissipate. We will need stronger action to win this dispute, and rank and file control over the action.