The biggest rail workers union has rejected an offer from train operators aimed at resolving a long-running dispute over pay, jobs and conditions,
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) offered an 8% pay rise and guarantee of no compulsory redundancies before April 2024.
But within hours of the offer, it was rejected by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT).
The RMT said: “The RDG is offering 4% in 2022 and 2023 which is conditional on RMT members accepting vast changes to working practices, huge job losses, Driver Only Operated (DOO) trains on all companies and the closure of all ticket offices.”
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “We have rejected this offer as it does not meet any of our criteria for securing a settlement on long-term job security, a decent pay rise and protecting working conditions.
“The RDG and Department of Transport, who sets their mandate, both knew this offer would not be acceptable to RMT members.
“If this plan was implemented, it would not only mean the loss of thousands of jobs but the use of unsafe practices such as DOO and would leave our railways chronically understaffed.
“RMT is demanding an urgent meeting with the RDG tomorrow (Monday) morning with a view to securing a negotiated settlement on job security, working conditions and pay.”
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the union’s announcement was “incredibly disappointing” and was unfair to the public, passengers and the rail workforce.
“Our railways need to modernise. There’s no place for outdated working practices that rely on voluntary overtime to run a reliable seven-day service,” he said.
The RNT said Network Rail have also made a “complex” offer on pay and working practices which the union’s executive will consider tomorrow.
The RMT said the RDG was proposing that all workforce changes were accepted without reservation or industrial action, closure of all ticket offices and displacement of all retail staff, of a new multi-skilled station grades, a “mass job severance programme”, Driver-Only Operation of trains in all companies and on all passenger services, new arrangements for mandatory Sunday working and a review of all On-Train Catering services leading to cutbacks in provision and jobs.
Other proposals included flexible working contracts, mandatory adoption of new technology with no payment and new annual leave and sick pay arrangements, said the union.
The RDG said its offer will deliver “vital and long overdue” changes to working arrangements.
A statement said a draft framework agreement gives the RMT the chance to call off its planned industrial action and put the offer to its membership.
The strikes, on December 13-14 and 16-17, coupled with an overtime ban over Christmas, would result in a month of disruption on the network, said the RDG.
Employers tabled the draft framework agreement after several weeks of intensive talks.
A spokesperson from the RDG said: “This is a fair and affordable offer in challenging times, providing a significant uplift in salary for staff. If approved by the RMT, implementation could be fast-tracked to ensure staff go into Christmas secure in the knowledge that they will receive this enhanced pay award early in the New Year alongside a guarantee of job security until April 2024.
“With revenue stuck at 20% below pre-pandemic levels and many working practices unchanged in decades, taxpayers who have contributed £1,800 per household to keep the railway running in recent years, will balk at continuing to pump billions of pounds a year into an industry that desperately needs to move forward with long-overdue reforms and that alienates potential customers with sustained industrial action.
“We urge the RMT leadership to put this offer to its membership and remove the threat of a month of industrial action over Christmas that will upset the travel plans of millions and cause real hardship for businesses which depend on Christmas custom.
“Instead, we urge the RMT to move forward together with us and so we can give our people a pay rise and deliver an improved railway with a sustainable, long-term future for those who work on it.”
The RDG said it was proposing that the process of buying tickets at stations will be modernised, with ticket office staff moving out from behind glass screens to other parts of the station.
“Customers will benefit from customer-facing, multi-skilled staff in public areas equipped with the knowledge and skills to advise them and help them on their journeys.
“This reflects the fact that just one in eight tickets are bought at station ticket offices, with most sales now taking place online, through apps and self-service ticket machines.
“Traditional ticket office facilities will be re-purposed or closed over time, in line with changes made on the London Underground several years ago.
“Depending upon local circumstances, the re-purposing could include conversion to a commercial outlet or the creation of a passenger hub facility to respond to passengers’ needs at major and key interchange stations,” said a statement.
To meet the growing demand for weekend leisure travel, particularly on Sundays, current voluntary and ad-hoc working arrangements across the railways will be “formalised”, said the RDG, adding: “Where it doesn’t already happen, a new contractual commitment for staff to work rostered Sundays, either as part of their core working week, or as an additional working day remunerated at the existing rate set out in company-specific agreements.”
RDG said it was also proposing a move to driver only operation – where drivers operate the doors on all carriages.
“It does not mean removing staff from onboard trains. It allows staff on board to focus on other safety issues and looking after customers on board with journey advice, selling tickets et.
“The aim would be to see this extended across more areas of the network – where appropriate technology and rolling stock allows – to improve safety of train dispatch and provide greater resilience in times of disruption.”
Transport Salaried Staffs Association organising director Luke Chester said: “I am glad that the Government has finally given authority to the employers to make offers in an attempt to resolve our dispute.
“We are considering the detail of these offers very carefully and will be consulting our reps tomorrow.
“The RDG offer, in particular, contains more strings than a harp, including some which have never previously been discussed.
“Today’s RDG offer also omits significant points that had previously been negotiated.
“There is nothing in the offer for either managers or controllers in train operators, and our union would expect any serious offer to include all those staff covered by the dispute.
“I have requested an urgent meeting with the RDG on Monday to understand their rationale behind making these last-minute changes and seek to address our concerns.”
In a message to workers, Tim Shoveller of Network Rail said that after a weekend of intensive talks, an improved pay offer had been made to the RMT, TSSA and Unite.
A minimum of a consolidated £1,750 or a 5% increase (whichever is greater) up to a maximum uplift of £3,500 had been offered on the annual base rates of pay effective from January 2022.
A 4% increase was offered on the annual base rates of pay effective from January 2023.
There was also a pledge of no compulsory redundancies for general grades and controllers until January 31 2025 as well as a 75% discount on all leisure travel and includes family members.
A cap on season ticket subsidies of £2,750 will be removed.