Services come to a standstill in Shropshire as rail and postal workers come out on strike

Vital services were brought to a standstill across Shropshire as railway and postal unions claimed unanimous support for continuing strike action.

Members of three rail unions and supporting trades unionists gathered at Shrewsbury railway station
Members of three rail unions and supporting trades unionists gathered at Shrewsbury railway station

Picket lines formed on Saturday morning at Shrewsbury's Royal Mail centre and union flags were flying at the town's railway station where there were no services at all and some passengers were left to book long distance taxis.

Kevin Tomkiss, a train conductor and member of the RMT union, said members of his union, the train drivers' union ASLEF, and salaried staffers at the TSSA are behind the action despite losing pay.

A Transpoprt for Wales information board at Shrewsbury Railway Station warned of severe future disruption

"We are fighting to protect our terms and conditions, jobs and for a fair pay rise," said Mr Tomkiss.

"I agree we should be running trains and the sooner we get back to running trains the better.

"Strike action is not taken lightly and a solution is in the hands of the RMT, the train companies and the transport secretary."

Mr Tomkiss, who has a disabled son, said he and his wife have had to take action to cut their spending to be able to cope.

But he added: "It is not easy to be striking and not being paid. If we do not fight now, there will be nothing left of the train service to fight for."

The three train worker unions were joined by Shropshire and Telford Trades Council.

Kath Perry, the trades council treasurer, said: "We support the strikes wholeheartedly."

Union members from the railway industry joined forces with Royal Mail workers for a combined protest march from the railway station to The Square.

A smaller, but similarly determined picket line formed outside the Shrewsbury delivery office in Castle Foregate.

The strikers did not wish to speak on behalf of the union but nationally the series of strikes is about pay and conditions. Posties are worried about changes in their hours and conditions at work.

Members of the Commuication Workers Union formed a picket line in Shrewsbury

It is understood that a skeleton staff of agency workers and management were inside the building concentrating on sorting out special deliveries, covid test kits and medical prescriptions.

But the delivery of letters was brought to a standstill.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has called on its members who collect, sort and deliver parcels and letters to take further national strike action on October 13, October 20, October 25, and November 28.

A spokesperson for the Royal Mail said: "We’re sorry this strike action is likely to cause you some disruption. We will be working to get our services back to normal as quickly as possible.

"Royal Mail has well-developed contingency plans, but we cannot fully replace the daily efforts of our frontline workforce. We’ll be doing what we can to keep services running, but you should expect significant disruption on dates when strike action is taking place.

Customers have been advised to post items as early as possible in advance of strike days and be aware that collections from post boxes and post offices will be less frequent on strike days.

Train travellers have been warned to expect delays on Sunday morning.

Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said: “Despite our best efforts to compromise and find a breakthrough in talks, rail unions remain intent on continuing and coordinating their strike action.

"This serves only to ensure our staff forgo even more of their pay unnecessarily, as well as causing even more disruption for our passengers and further damaging the railway’s recovery from the pandemic.

“Passengers who want to travel this Saturday, and indeed next Wednesday and next Saturday, are asked only to do so if absolutely necessary. Those who must travel should expect disruption and make sure they check when their last train will depart.”

Daniel Mann, Director of Industry Operations at Rail Delivery Group, said: “These strikes are unnecessary and damaging. They disrupt passengers’ plans, undermine struggling businesses, hit major events and harm the industry’s recovery.

It is particularly disheartening that this weekend’s strike will hit the plans of thousands of runners who have trained for months to take part in the iconic London Marathon. That will also punish the many charities, large and small, who depend on sponsorship money raised by such events to support the most vulnerable in our community.

“While we have done all we can to keep some services running, passengers should only travel by rail if absolutely necessary. Passengers with advance, off-peak or anytime tickets affected by the strikes on 1 October can use their ticket on the day before the booked date, or up to and including 4 October. Passengers can also change their tickets to travel on an alternate date or get a refund if their train is cancelled or rescheduled.”

A spokesman for the RMT union said: "This dispute is resolvable but only if the government changes the mandate of Network Rail and the train operating companies and enables proper collective bargaining."

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