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National rail strike back on as RMT rejects pay offer

The threat of a national rail strike is back and even bigger than before after members of RMT voted to reject the revised pay offer from Network Rail.

Not only will union members walkout for 24 hours, as in the original plan, but RMT has confirmed that a second strike, taking place the following week, will last for 48 hours.

The new dates for the action are 4 June and 9 June, both strikes will start at 5pm. The union will also take action short of a strike by not booking overtime or taking extended shifts from 6 – 12 June.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Our representatives have today rejected the pay package offered by Network Rail and in the absence of any further movement from the company that has left us with no option but to move to a rolling programme of industrial action which will begin next Thursday.

“We have a massive mandate for action which shows the anger of safety-critical staff across the rail network at attacks on their standards of living and the blunt truth is that this dispute could be settled for a fraction of the money being handed out in senior manager bonuses and to the train operators for not running services. That is a ludicrous situation which should never have been allowed to have arisen.”

He added that the union remains available for talks and he hopes Network Rail will come back to the table with an improved package.

Union reps met Thursday to discuss the offer and rejected it. RMT members originally voted in a ballot by 80% for strike action on a 60% turn out and by 92% for action short of strike action. 

There has been no word from TSSA or Unite on the result of their ballots.

The original walkout, scheduled for 25 May, was suspended after Network Rail made significant concessions, including a 1% increase in pay backdated to 1 January 2015.

Under the new offer some employees would also have received a 1.4% increase from 1 January 2016, and another 0.7% rise would have been implemented if the unions agree to different ways of working. There was also a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies for two years.

This improved on the original deal, which included a £500 bonus but no pay rise this year. Salaries would then have risen only in line with inflation for three years until 2019.

Crucially, those who will be taking part in the strike include signallers, which will severely inhibit the ability of all operators to run services.

Before the original strike was called off due to the improved offer mass cancellations had been announced across all operators in Britain for the days affected, which would have the network to a standstill.

A statement from Network Rail said: “Once again the RMT leadership have failed to get their members to accept a pay offer from Network Rail that they had agreed to in discussions with Acas.”

Mark Carne, chief executive added: “Our people know that there are ways to improve the way work is done. I have always said that if we work together to realise these benefits there is the possibility to increase pay. We are therefore ready to get around the table with whoever the RMT consider can speak on behalf of their members. It is clearly unacceptable for the RMT to massively disrupt the travelling public with strike action when we are ready to continue talks.” 

The transport secretary called the strike action “unnecessary and unreasonable” and condemned it “wholeheartedly”.

Patrick McLoughlin said: “Over the past four years Network Rail staff have enjoyed pay rises eight times higher than other public sector workers. By any measure RMT members already get a fair deal.

“It is very disappointing that RMT has now rejected a deal delivered through Acas talks that the union’s leadership agreed was a reasonable offer.

“The government will do everything it can to help keep people and goods moving during the strike.”

The TSSA, who also abandoned their plans to strike after receiving the new offer, has announced that it will conduct a referendum of members to accept or reject the offer.

TSSA official Lorraine Ward said to the Guardian: “With the expected cuts in the public sector from the new Tory government, our members were as much concerned about job security as they were about pay. 

“This offer means there will be no compulsory redundancies at NR for at least the next two years. Given the current climate, we think this is a major advance.”

Unite, who were involved in the negotiations but had not balloted for strike action before the new offer, has also announced it will consult its members on the new “derisory” pay offer. If its 230 members involved in the dispute reject it the union will then ballot to strike.

Unite national officer for rail Tony Murphy said: “The offer made by Network Rail is a derisory one and the management needs more constructive forward thinking, if it is to have any chance of meeting our members’ aspirations for a fair pay deal.  

“As always, we are willing to get back round the table to try and find a solution which is agreeable to all parties involved.”

The consultative ballot will run from 1-10 June and, depending on the result, Unite members will then move to a full industrial action ballot. 

(Picture by: Nick Ansell / PA Wire)

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


Neil Palmer   28/05/2015 at 16:34

As usual the RMT started off making the totally unbelievable claim that "it's not about money" then are proven liars yet again by their actions. This is nothing but pure unadulterated greed from those who have received far more than average pay increases over the past several years (compared with the NHS etc). Are they happy with that? No - like all pigs at a trough they want more. This is nothing but a barefaced attempt to hold the general public to ransom Yet there are those who continue to push for nationalizing the TOC's so we can suffer yet more of this blackmail. Does no one learn from history? I don't know how Mick Cash and his fellow Bolsheviks can sleep at night. Oh wait, I forgot, they have no morals or conscience, that's how.

Pauline Smith   29/05/2015 at 12:45

Nobody wants to see strike action, but the rejected pay increases don't really compare with the 14% & 9% boosts for the new NR bosses on their predecessors pay though do they? The rates are also way above their equivalents in the NHS etc. (to use an example) so why shouldn't that rule apply to the staff too? Who are the 'pigs at a trough' now? And yes, we should indeed learn from history, like the Tory lie that privatisation would lead to lower subsidies and lower fares, the latter now the highest in Europe. Isn't it strange how the the privatised railway costs taxpayers substantially more to run than the nationalised railway ever did, one might think that the Tories and their sympathisers (see above) were simply ripping off the public purse to suit their friends in the City once again.......

Neil Palmer   30/05/2015 at 03:20

Tory sympathiser, far from it. Maybe the government should fine the banks & bankers who were responsible for profiteering from fixing the LIBOR rate, and causing the recent financial crisis & recession, several billion more and have that money directed into the NHS & the railways. Either that or put them in prison where they belong. I just despise greed no matter where it comes from, but especially from those who hold the general public to ransom.

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