A voluntary redundancy scheme for railway workers has been inundated with more than 5,000 applications, casting doubt on union bosses’ reasons for launching the most aggressive strike action in a generation.
Railroad operators filed voluntary redundancies last fall as part of efforts to relieve taxpayers from the pandemic.
Figures from The Telegraph show that train operators have received 2,949 requests to stop. Another 2,159 applied for the scheme from Network Rail, the state-sponsored owner of tracks and stations.
While the number of voluntary layoffs sought by managers is being closely monitored, it is clear that the number of applications to Network Rail exceeded approximately two to one.
Meanwhile, train operators confirmed that “more people had expressed an interest in the scheme than we could initially accept”.
Union leaders insisted that voluntary redundancy programs had been offered only to Network Rail executives.
Nevertheless, the number of job applications released under freedom of information laws casts doubt on claims by “militant” union leaders that railroad leaders are imposing unwanted job cuts to lower costs.
The figures also suggest that the organization leading the dispute – the Railways, Maritime and Transport (RMT) trade union – is now facing an existential crisis as members rush to leave the UK’s rail sector.
Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail said: “We know there is a huge latent demand within Network Rail for people to leave and move on – it’s mostly a matter of age profile – and it can be unlocked by the unions.
“Without flexibility from them, we won’t be able to realize the savings that would allow us to open a voluntary severance package for their members. We hope they will settle for some meaningful negotiations that could make any suggestion of redundancies null and void.”
Between 40,000 and 50,000 RMT members will walk out on June 21, 23 and 25, disrupting Glastonbury Festival, the Headingley test match and those heading to the Armed Forces Day celebrations on June 25.