RAIL passengers face disruption after union leaders announced six 24-hour Virgin Trains strikes in December and January – including the last working day before Christmas.

RMT members who work for Virgin Trains on the west coast mainline, including services to London and Birmingham from Crewe, Runcorn, Warrington and Wilmslow, will walk out for 24 hours on Friday, December 15, Friday, December 22, and Friday, January 5.

Staff will also be on strike on Monday, January 8, Friday, January 26, and Monday, January 29, following a dispute over an unequal pay offer for drivers and other members of staff.

Mick Cash, RMT general secretary, said the union remains open for talks with Virgin.

"Our members on Virgin West Coast are striking for workplace equality and workplace justice," he said.

"All our members are demanding is a suitable and equal offer to that given to drivers to buy out their claim for a reduction in the base working week.

"We have made it clear to the company that the inequality and underhanded approach of Virgin will be fought tooth and nail. We will not accept our members being dealt with less favourably than others."

The union says that Virgin has agreed a deal for drivers to buy out their claim for a one hour reduction in the base working week without loss of pay by giving an additional £500 on their basic salary, which is pensionable, while asking RMT to enter into self-financing arrangements for other grades.

Almost 1,800 train managers, caterers, clerical and retail staff voted in the RMT ballot, with the result being nine to one in favour of industrial action.

Virgin Trains has confirmed its intention to run the majority of its services on the days affected.

Phil Whittingham, managing director for Virgin Trains on the west coast, said: “The RMT leadership is attempting to cause disruption when many will want to travel by train to spend time with loved ones.

"We have explored a generous 3.6 per cent pay increase, however the trade union’s leadership is insisting on four per cent, double the two percent average increase seen across the UK this year.

"We know how important it is for friends and families to get together over the festive season, so we will keep the majority of our trains running with fully-trained staff onboard and at stations. We remain open to continuing talks with the RMT."