Reconciliation is on the horizon for British railways, Network Rail’s chairman has said, after disputes over pay between unions and bosses have trains at a halt.
The RMT union last week rejected an eight per cent pay rise over the next two years, alongside 75 per cent off rail travel for family members, in what RMT general secretary Mick Lynch called a real terms pay cut.
Sir Peter Hendy, now an adviser to Boris Johnson after serving as Transport for London commissioner when Johnson was mayor, told the Telegraph today: “We’ve made a number of offers, but they haven’t taken any of them to our staff and their members and I think that that’s unforgivable, because they’re not being given the opportunity to express the view on what was on the table last Friday.
“A 100-year view of history shows that however bad the dispute is, people go back to work. The deal is: we pay people to come to work, and they need the money.”
Rail workers have had their pay frozen for two years. But Hendy said the offer, “which is skewed towards the low-paid, is pretty good actually. And I think that it’s so poor that [union bosses] haven’t put it to its membership.”
“What you conclude from that is, actually, they want to have a go at the government,” he added. “So, in those circumstances, you ask yourself: why would we go any further? Because if they’re not going to put that offer to the membership, what offer are they going to put?”
Hendy cautioned that with growing remote working trends, the rail risks becoming “irrelevant” when navigating sustained strikes.
“When I worked for London Transport in the 1970s, I think large portions of the management had given up. We had a terrible staff shortage. We had some bad working practices. The service to the public was appalling,” he said, adding that back then, railways were a “perishable good”.
“But I think we’re just proving now that isn’t necessarily the case. People can shift their lives around quite a lot,” Hendy continued. “You [have] got to move with the times. You can’t become irrelevant. Look what happened to the coal industry. We haven’t got one.”