RMT urged to cancel next week’s walkouts after Network Rail action suspended
Rail union bosses have been urged to cancel next week’s walkouts at train companies after suspending planned industrial action at Network Rail.
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents operators, called on the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) to “meet us for urgent talks”.
The RMT has been engaged in national rail strikes in a row over jobs, pay and conditions since June last year, decimating services.
It had rejected the latest offers – described by transport secretary Mark Harper as “best and final” – from Network Rail and the RDG without putting them to a vote of its members.
Workers were due to strike at Network Rail on March 16.
But in a development on Tuesday, the RMT announced the suspension of its action at the government-owned company and committed to balloting on “a new offer from the employer”.
A strike by RMT members at 14 operators is still scheduled to take place on March 16, 18 and 30 and April 1, and is expected to cause major disruption.
An RDG spokesman said the ballot was a “welcome development” but added: “Instead of inflicting more lost pay on its members and disruption to our passengers, we are calling on the union to call off their strikes and meet us for urgent talks to resolve this dispute.”
The RDG said its offer includes pay rises of at least five per cent for 2022 and four per cent for this year, with a lump sum payment for last year’s increase.
The government and the rail industry insist reforms are needed to afford higher salaries as the sector’s finances have been hit by the drop in passengers due to the Covid pandemic.
The Department for Transport (DfT) heavily influences the financial decisions of train companies after taking on their revenue risks due to the virus crisis.
Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines said: “We are relieved for our people, passengers and freight customers that industrial action in Network Rail has now been suspended. We look forward to further information on plans for a referendum.”
A DfT spokeswoman said: “It is positive news that the RMT has finally put this offer to their members and have called off upcoming industrial action by Network Rail workers.
“The RMT’s leaders must now put the best and final offer to their members in the train operating companies, who are still due to strike in the coming weeks and who are not being given the opportunity to vote on an offer.”