Rail workers to strike in battle over 'Scrooge-like' holiday pay

Workers at Northern Rail are to strike on December 27 and 28 in a dispute over bank holiday pay.

The Rail Maritime and Transport union said yesterday about 1,000 of its members at the company will take industrial action after voting in favour of strikes over a "perfectly reasonable" demand for extra pay for working during the festive public holidays.

The union said that while the company was demanding that the workforce accepted flat-rate payments over Christmas, Northern Rail operating profits on normal activities had shot up by 87.5 per cent between 2007 and 2010 to a total for the four years of 85.9m.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: "The spirit of old Scrooge is alive and well on Northern Rail and our conductor members have shown in this ballot that they will not be treated as second-class citizens this Christmas.

"There is no agreement in place on Northern Rail for the additional public holidays on December 27 and 28 that everyone else will be benefiting from this year. You only have to look at the sporting calendar to see that these days are full-on public holidays everywhere other than in the minds of the senior management at Northern Rail."

Mr Crow said: "The boardroom is awash with cash and it is outrageous that staff are being told to work these additional Christmas public holidays at flat rate while the Northern Rail shareholders are relaxing in front of the telly with the warm feeling that 80m in dividend payments brings."

Northern Rail said it will run a limited service on some routes during the walkout, adding that it was "very disappointed" that the union had called for strike action.

The company said it will run a revised timetable from around 9am to 6pm on both strike days.

Managing director Ian Bevan said: "We are very disappointed that the RMT is going ahead with strike action when only 361 of 976 conductors voted for a strike."

Northern, which was formed in 2004 to operate train services in the north of England, has 4,800 employees providing nearly 2,550 local and regional train services every weekday.