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National rail strike moves closer as unions reject revised pay offer

 Network Rail’s revised pay offer has been rejected by both the RMT and TSSA rail unions, which will now ballot their members for both “strike action” and “action short of strike”. 

The news comes after a fresh wave of talks between Network Rail and the unions last week had led to an improved pay offer being tabled by the employer, in an attempt to avert Britain’s first national rail strike in a generation. 

The revised offer included a £500 non-consolidated lump sum for all staff (pro-rata for part-time staff) covered by these bargaining groups as the pay deal for 2015; a consolidated inflation (RPI) percentage increase for 2016, 2017, 2018, with a guarantee of no salary reduction if RPI falls below 0%; no compulsory redundancies in 2015 or 2016; and Network Rail committing to equality proofing pay arrangements. 

However, RMT and TSSA said that the talks through ACAS have failed to produce enough movement from Network Rail leaving the unions with “no alternative” but to move to a national industrial action vote. 

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Our members have already decisively (96%) rejected the initial pay package offered by Network Rail. 

“As far as we are concerned the one off, non-consolidated, lump-sum payment this year is wholly inadequate and fails to recognise the massive pressures staff are working under to keep services running at a time when the company is generating profits of £1 billion. It is our members battling to keep Britain moving around the clock and they deserve a fair share from Network Rail for their incredible efforts. 

“In addition, we are extremely concerned that the ‘No Compulsory Redundancy’ commitment only applies to the first two years of the four year deal.” 

The TSSA union added that its Area Council Reps for Operations and Maintenance Bands 5-8 and equivalent and Controller Grades voted to reject Network Rail’s pay offer and will enter a formal trade dispute with the employer. 

TSSA added: “Our demands for a commitment to no compulsory redundancies for the duration of the offer were not met. We received no commitment that members’ terms and conditions would not be attacked for the duration of the offer, following rejected previous proposals to cut conditions.” 

Phil Hufton, Network Rail’s managing director, network operations, said he was disappointed with the decision taken to reject the offer and balloting members for industrial action. 

“Our latest offer, which represents a significant improvement on the previous offer, is fair given our financial pressures and provides long-term employment opportunities by guaranteeing a further extension to the no compulsory redundancy agreement as well as providing a lump sum in 2015,” he said. 

“Pay awards at Network Rail over the last four years have been well ahead of the rest of the country. Pay has increased eight times more than workers in the public sector - such as teachers and nurses - and double the pay for private sector workers.” 

The RMT and Network Rail have both said they remain available for talks.

(Image: c. Nick Ansell)

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