SKEGNESS and Wainfleet are set to be hit by a three-day rail strike in early August after talks between East Midlands Trains and the union ASLEF broke down.
The rail company and union have been in dispute this year over East Midlands Trains’ (EMT) plans to cut employees’ pension contributions.
EMT bosses insist this leaves workers with more take-home pay per month.
But ASLEF members are furious at the move, which they believe will create financial problems for their members when they come to retire.
There have already been a series of one day strikes this year as a result of the dispute - during which no trains ran between Boston and Skegness, and EMT also failed to put on any replacement bus services.
There had been hopes the damaging strikes might be a thing of the past after planned action in June was called off at the 11th hour following constructive discussions between the union and EMT.
But those talks have now broken down, sparking ASLEF’s announcement this morning (Thursday) of further strike action on August 6, 7 and 8.
The decision to strike during the Olympics has been slammed by EMT’s managing director, who has accused the union of “playing games” at a time of “great national pride”.
Announcing the strikes, ASLEF’s General Secretary, Mick Whelan, said: “To cut pension contributions in the current climate is highly irresponsible. It is widely believed that the fund’s assets have dramatically decreased since the last valuation.
“Also, any suggestion that drivers would save money ignores the fact that the pension scheme is split 60/40 between the employer and the employee - so if our members are saving £500, the company is saving £750. In total that’s £1,250 a year less going into the fund per active member.
“This is simply storing up trouble for the next valuation and the future of the scheme. It is disingenuous to suggest our members are getting something for nothing.
“The current owners of the East Midlands Trains franchise may have no responsibility over the pension fund in a few years, whereas our members face the prospect of either cripplingly high contribution rates or reduced benefits due to a short-term cost-cutting decision made by EMT that has left the scheme in deficit.”
David Horne, the Managing Director of EMT, said: “This is yet another example of ASLEF playing games and is a real kick in the teeth for our customers and the country.
“The fact is that there was only one point of clarification still under discussion with the union on the pension proposal we put forward back in June.
“We were in talks with ASLEF to deal with this issue when we heard the news that further strike action dates had been announced.
“We’re particularly surprised that ASLEF has announced further strike dates, rather than putting the offer that was accepted in principle back in June to their members for consideration.
“We’re certain that the public will be shocked and angry to hear that the union has announced strike action during a time of great national pride for our country.
“We hope ASLEF can see sense and call off this unnecessary strike action.
“However, if the planned strike action by ASLEF does go ahead, we will be pulling out all the stops to ensure that people can still travel by train and enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.”
It is currently unknown how the strike will affect services to Skegness, but if they have the same impact as previous action then the town could be left without any rail services whatsoever for three days at the height of the school summer holidays.
A spokesperson for EMT this morning said it was still too early to say what replacement services would be put on during the strike, should it go ahead.
However, they added that their priority would be ensuring that people can get to the Olympics.
They also said that further talks were scheduled for tomorrow (Friday) and that they hoped the dispute could be resolved.