Train strikes: Which unions are involved and what do they want for their members?

Cross Country train at Sheffield station
Only one in five services will operate during the strikes. Credit: PA

Millions of travellers are facing chaos this week as the UK grapples with the biggest train strike in a generation, with unions staging walkouts demanding their members should not be forced to pay for the costs of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Services on the railways will be crippled from Tuesday in the biggest walkout in the industry for more than 30 years in a row over pay, jobs and conditions.

The situation will be even worse on Tuesday, when London Underground workers also take action.

Talks broke down over the weekend, and despite both sides saying they want still want to avert the strikes the chance of reaching a deal seems slim.

Only around one in five trains will operate during the strikes and there are fears the road network will be overloaded as people try and make different travel plans.

The government has said the strikes were premature and £16 billion had been pumped into the rail industry during the pandemic to keep it afloat.

There are concerns other public transport systems could be overloaded without the train network. Credit: PA

With passenger numbers still below pre-coronavirus pandemic levels and costs rising many train companies are making cutbacks.

But unions argue their members should not be forced to pay for the pandemic by seeing their pensions slashed, pay stagnate and working conditions worsened.

What do the unions want for their members and which are involved?

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union

With more than 50,000 members involved in the strike the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union is by far the biggest involved in the industrial action.

They were the first to announce strike action for June after talks with Network Rail broke down.

General Secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Mike Lynch. Credit: PA

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch told Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday that he was asking for a 7% pay rise for his members.

He said that was the deal on the table in December and was based on the inflation level at the time, but they couldn't reach a final agreement with Network Rail.

Instead, Mr Lynch said the most recent offer is a 2% pay rise. Inflation is currently around 10%.

He also said bosses were trying to extend the 35-hour week for new employees which could result in lower pay.

RMT is also calling for assurances that would be no compulsory redundancies amid current plans by Network Rail to cut 1% of its workforce.

Mr Lynch told LBC: “We’ve got a threat to jobs, we want a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies.

“We’ve got the threat to working conditions, which is a really important part of this dispute. Terms and conditions and working practices are threatened with being shredded.

“We’ve got the pay issue which is ongoing now, most of our members haven’t had a pay rise for two or three years and that includes Network Rail and all other train companies.”

In a statement put out by the union, they justified the industrial action by placing the blame on the government.

They said the government had cut £4 billion from the transport system, which led to employers making cutbacks.

They said members' pensions, real-term pay and work benefits had been cut while their hours had been increased.


More than 1,000 members of Unite who work for Transport for London and the London Underground will strike on Tuesday.

Unite says its members are striking because of the proposed cuts to TfL's pension scheme, which has been demanded by the government in return for pandemic recovery funding.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “It is not acceptable in any way, shape or form that the dedicated workers at TfL and London Underground are being told to pay the price of the pandemic with their pensions, pay cuts and threats to their jobs."While the cuts to the pension scheme are the primary drivers of the strike, Unite also says their members have not been offered a reasonable pay rise in nearly two years and are concerned about the prospect of job cuts.The Transport Salaried Staffs Association

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) is currently balloting its members over proposed strike action that could take place from the end of July.

The TSSA said it is demanding a pay rise which reflects the cost of living after saying members have gone two years without one.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know

They are also demanding a no compulsory redundancy agreement to cover all rail staff until at least the end of 2022.Finally, it is demanding protections for their members' terms and conditions including pensions, safety and wellbeing - saying they want to avoid a "race to the bottom".They are proposing strikes that could impact almost all of the train companies in England as well as Network Rail and TfL.

They also said a plan to close every ticket office in England leaked to the Sunday Times was "explosive."General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, said: “Our demands are simple, pay which reflects the times we live in, a deal which delivers job security, and no race to the bottom on terms and conditions.”AslefThe Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen is the largest union for train drivers in the UK with 21,000 members.

They have been in negotiation with ScotRail, Network Rail and several train operators for months.

The London Underground will be almost entirely closed during the strikes. Credit: PA

Their Scottish members are currently being balloted over whether they should accept a 5% pay rise offer from ScotRail.

If accepted, it could end a dispute that resulted in ScotRail having to cut more than 700 services from its timetable.

Members of the union stopped working overtime when the dispute began, resulting in a temporary timetable being put in place.

As well as increasing pay for drivers, the new deal includes more money for rest day and Sunday working, driving instructor and maternity pay, and a policy of no compulsory redundancies for the next five years.In England, Aslef called off a planned strike on June 26 after reaching a deal with Hull Trains, they are still pressing ahead with their planned walkout at Greater Anglia and Croydon Tramlink later this month.

They are calling for pay rises saying many of their members have not had a pay increase since 2019.