THE leader of the biggest rail workers' union is warning of a national strike in a dispute over pensions.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), spoke out against any move to cut benefits or increase employee contributions.

In a letter to RMT members, Mr Cash highlights news that Stagecoach have been disqualified from recent rail franchise bids as a result of them putting in non-compliant bids, in relation to pensions.

He said: "This has quite understandably raised concerns amongst all our Train Operating Company (TOC) members in respect of their future pension benefits.

"Your union is of the view that the railway pension scheme is fundamentally sound and in good shape.

"The only reason there now appears to be an issue is a new approach from the pension regulator and the Government which is threatening the scheme.

"Ministers have decided that employers will be given financial assistance from the Government with any future deficit whilst members of the scheme will still have to meet their share of any deficit in line with the Railway Pension Scheme shared cost arrangement.

"This is not just an attack on our members future pension rights, but also puts in doubt the long-term future of the Railway Pension Scheme."


Mr Cash said he has written to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, the Industry's regulator, all TOC employers and the Rail Delivery Group making it clear that if there is a move to impose reductions in future pension benefits or significantly increase member contributions the union will take the "necessary action" to defend pensions.

He said: "This union will not tolerate the position where Chris Grayling plans to subsidise TOC employer contributions while attempting to raise member contributions and cut benefits.

"Any such attack will be met with a campaign of coordinated industrial action across the rail industry to defend pensions.

"This union will resist any attack on our members future pension rights either as a result of Government policy or greedy employers wanting to get their share of the failed franchise model."

The issue will be discussed at the RMT's annual conference, which opens in Manchester on Monday.