More holiday chaos as rail strikes loom

Maya Driver

No sooner have thousands of holidaymakers struggled through the disruption of the BA strikes than more holiday chaos looms as railway workers prepare to walk out. Unions have called for the first national rail strike in 16 years over job cuts and proposed changes to working practices and the four-day strike, coinciding nicely with the first week of the Easter school holidays, will undoubtedly scupper the plans of many seeking an Easter break. Not only that, but businesses look set to lose millions with commuters unable to make it to the office.

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The rail strike, by signallers and maintenance staff, is expected to cripple the network, with operators saying only one in five services may run each day (an emergency timetable is due to be published next week). But few will have much sympathy with the striking workers. Signallers currently work 12-hour shifts but only three days a week and can expect payment of up to £65,000 a year including overtime.

Their beef with Network Rail is that their shift patterns are set to move to four eight-hour shifts each week, which doesn't seem like too much hardship for such a healthy salary. Maintenance workers, on the other hand, have been angered by the proposed 1,500 redundancies and more weekend and evening work.

Oddly the strike, which begins on April 6, spares the bank holiday weekend when workers can expect a double time bonus. Many are already dubbing the situation a "spring of discontent" with strikes by British Airways staff and civil servants just the tip of the iceberg. British Gas workers, teachers and university lecturers are expected to down tools in the near future.

But since many are already dealing with redundancy or taking pay cuts to hold onto their jobs, is it right that so many should be walking out over proposed job cuts and causing yet more problems for businesses?