THOUSANDS of managers and technicians at Network Rail are to be balloted for strikes, which could affect routes in and out of Huddersfield.

They are contemplating action over claims that female staff are being paid as much as £4,000 a year less than male colleagues in the same grade, it has been announced.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association said a yes vote could lead to disruption at major rail stations in London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Leeds.

The route between Leeds and Manchester brings First and Northern Rail services through Huddersfield.

The union accused NR of refusing to carry out a “fair pay audit” and of imposing a 2.5% wage rise on white collar staff, less than half of a 5.2% rise given to other employees.

General secretary Gerry Doherty said: “It is almost unbelievable that we are in this dispute more than 30 years after the passing of the Equal Pay Act.

“It is even more bizarre that a publicly funded company is arguing that it can treat its female staff as second class citizens on pay because Whitehall has deemed that it is a private company for accountancy purposes.”

A Network Rail spokesman, said: “A pay award has been made for this year and we have offered discussions to the TSSA about improving how we work together before we can address their claims.”

The strike ballot will finish on August 18, and the union will have to give a week’s notice of any industrial action.