NETWORK Rail staff who went on strike in recent disputes will be denied bonuses, in a move branded “disgraceful” by trade union leadership.

The state-owned railway infrastructure firm, which owns train stations across the UK, has been slammed by the RMT union for the move, which it says is an attempt to “divide the workforce”.

It means those who did not strike this year will be rewarded with bonuses while those who walked out will not be eligible for performance-based pay boosts.

An online petition for Network Rail workers to be paid “their rightful bonus” has received 12,000 signatures on the website Organise as of the end of last week.

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The Guardian reports that around 20,000 RMT members will be affected by the decision but that bonuses are expected to be lower than usual this year and could be as little as £300.

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “Awarding performance-related pay [PRP] is Network Rail’s way of recognising colleagues for their contribution to achieving the company’s performance targets. We have been crystal clear with both our trade unions and our employees that the cost of strike action would directly impact the PRP scheme.

“Our position was made very clear: any discretionary payments would focus on those who continued to support rail services during industrial action.”

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “The decision to exclude trade unionists from this bonus scheme is disgraceful and is understandably causing significant consternation among members.

“It is clear that the stance adopted by Network Rail both penalises and discriminates against members for exercising their human right to associate and to participate in lawful trade union activities. However, legal protections only exist for those who are unfairly dismissed for taking part in lawful strike or other industrial action which is called officially.”

But he said the employer could deny workers their bonuses because it is not a contractual obligation.

He added: “As the bonus scheme is discretionary, and not a contractual obligation, the decision to exclude RMT members has been taken in bad faith and is a transparent attempt to divide the workforce and undermine your union, by specifically rewarding those who refused to stand in solidarity with union members taking essential strike action.”

David Hopper, a partner in the employment team at law firm Lewis Silkin, told the Financial Times that the company's stance went “against current market practice,” adding: “Except for not paying them for strike days, employers risk human rights claims if they treat employees who went on strike worse than their colleagues.”

RMT members accepted a 9% pay increase from Network Rail in March, ending a lengthy dispute with the state-owned firm. 

But workers remain engaged in a separate dispute with train operators affecting English and cross-Border services this Saturday