More than 6,000 staff at Network Rail are to ballot in a dispute over pay, conditions and job security, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) said.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at National Rail and 13 train operators are set to strike for three days next week which will cause huge disruption to services to passengers.
On 21 June the RMT Unite union will also strike on London Underground in yet another argument over jobs and pay.
The TSSA are demanding for there to be a guarantee of no redundancies this year with no changes to terms and conditions along with pay increases which reflects the soaring cost of living.
National Rail staff last had a pay rise between two and three years ago and union members are being asked to cast two votes, one will be for strike action and the other on action for a short strike, and should they vote to strike this will be held on 25 July.
A Department for Transport spokesman said, “Strikes should always be the last resort, not the first, so it is hugely disappointing and premature that the TSSA is balloting for industrial action when talks have only just begun.
“Taxpayers across the country contributed £16bn, or £600 per household, to keep our railways running throughout the pandemic.
“The railway is still on financial life support, with passenger numbers 25% down and anything that drives away even more of them puts services and jobs at risk.
“Train travel for millions more people is now a choice, not a necessity. Strikes stop our customers choosing rail, and they might never return.
“We urge the TSSA to reconsider and come to industry talks, so we can find a solution that delivers for workers, passengers and taxpayers alike.”
TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said, “We could be seeing a summer of discontent across our railways if Network Rail don’t see sense and come to the table to face the concerns of their staff.
“Network Rail staff are asking for basic fair treatment – not to be sacked from their jobs, a fair pay rise in the face of a cost-of-living crisis and no race to the bottom on terms and conditions.
“Fat cat bosses have so far refused these completely reasonable requests, leaving us with no option other than to ballot for industrial action, something which is always a last resort.
“It’s frankly ridiculous that we’re being forced to ballot. Network Rail only responded to our requests for pay talks – made before Christmas – when we moved the issue to dispute in April and have dragged their heels at every stage.
“Our members have had enough. We are preparing for all options, including co-ordinated strike action.”
A Network Rail spokesman said, “Now is not for time for the TSSA to be jumping on the RMT ‘strike bandwagon’.
“Positive pay talks were in full swing with a ‘no-strings’ pay offer of 2.5% on the table, with the potential for more if connected to productivity and efficiency gains, so this news is both premature and deeply disappointing.”