UK train users could be hit with travel woes over the Easter holiday weekend as Network Rail engineers plan to strike for four days in a row over back payments.
The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) union claimed National Rail bosses refused to enter into talks over the company's alleged failure to pay annual bonuses to around 80 maintenance and safety staff.
The workers have overwhelmingly voted (80%) in favour of walking out between 24 March to 28 March. The TSSA said the industrial action is likely to disrupt services to both Virgin East Coast and West Coast mainline traffic and all Northern, Transpennine and Cross Country services.
"We are sorry that National Rail are letting the dispute escalate and impact both our passengers and our scheduled maintenance work will now have to be rescheduled to other, even less convenient times," declared Manuel Cortes, the general secretary of the TSSA.
"But Network Rail have repeatedly failed to give professional and procedural courtesy to this small dedicated team of highly-skilled engineering graduates.
"These staff are proud of the work they do and by complying with continuous in-job training requirements they have helped ensure Britain has one of the finest rail passenger safety records in the world."
He added: "The terms of their employment mean they can climb the grade ladder and it should be accompanied by an incremental increase in pay. Some staff have been paid this but most have not and National Rail's repeated refusal to talk to us about this has pushed them to the point of strike action."
Essential maintenance work on rail tracks and overhead cables scheduled to take place across the holiday period will now be cancelled and rescheduled for less convenient times, the TSSA claimed.
But the union said it was open to negotiations with National Rail bosses or a referral to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas).
A spokesperson for Network Rail told IBTimes UK: "The TSSA's strike involves a very small number of employees (83 out of 36,000). We are confident that neither passenger services nor our Easter upgrade programme will be affected."
The news comes after Eurostar train managers backed strike action in alleged "victimisation" dispute with the company. But a walkout could be averted since the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union (RMT) and Eurostar bosses are engaged in crunch talks.