RMT chiefs told to put pay offer to train workers and call off strikes next week

Transport Secretary Mark Harper calling for rail strikes planned for next week to be called off  (PA Wire)
Transport Secretary Mark Harper calling for rail strikes planned for next week to be called off (PA Wire)

Transport Secretary Mark Harper on Tuesday urged the RMT union to put a pay offer to its train company workers so next week’s rail strikes are called off.

He issued the appeal after members of the RMT in Network Rail voted overwhelmingly to accept an offer to end the long-running dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.

In a turnout of nearly 90 per cent, members voted by 76 per cent to 24 per cent in favour, signalling an end to the bitter row, which led to a series of strikes in recent months.

The union said the deal includes an uplift on salaries of between 14.4 per cent for the lowest paid grades to 9.2 per cent for the highest paid, increased backpay, a no compulsory redundancy agreement until January 2025 and rail travel benefits.

It also opened the door for reforms in how Network Rail runs maintenance and infrastructure.

Speaking on GB News, Mr Harper said: “The next stage, is I want the RMT to put what is broadly the same fair and reasonable offer to their members who work for the train operating companies and call off next week’s strikes.

“That would be fantastic news for the travelling public if the RMT members get the chance to consider that pay offer as well for those who work on the train companies themselves.”

Despite the industrial action ending on Network Rail, strikes are planned for 24 hours from one minute past midnight on Thursday March 30, and for 24 hours from one minute past midnight on Saturday April 1, affecting 18 train companies.

The train companies affected are: Avanti West Coast, Chiltern Railways, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, Gatwick Express, Greater Anglia (including Stansted Express), Great Northern, Great Western Railway, LNER, London Northwestern Railway, Northern, Southern, Southeastern, South Western Railway, Thameslink, TransPennine Express and West Midlands Railway.

After the Network Rail stand-off was resolved, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Strike action and the inspiring solidarity and determination of members has secured new money and a new offer which has been clearly accepted by our members and that dispute is now over.

“Our dispute with the train operating companies remains firmly on and our members’ recent highly effective strike action across the 14 train companies has shown their determination to secure a better deal.

“If the Government now allows the train companies to make the right offer, we can then put that to our members, but until then the strike action scheduled for March 30 and April 1 will take place.

“The ball is in the Government’s court.”

The RMT added that Network Rail had withdrawn its previous insistence that the offer was conditional on the union accepting the company “modernising maintenance” agenda, which the union will continue to scrutinise and challenge.

Adam Tyndall, programme director for transport at London business group BusinessLDN, said: “The vote by RMT members to accept this offer is a step towards restoring confidence in Britain’s public transport network and shows how the Government, unions and operators can work successfully to resolve disputes.

“The agreement offers a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel for those businesses that have been hit hard by disruption, including in the hospitality and retail sectors. But there is still more to do to end the months of disruption for businesses across the capital.

“We hope this positive step encourages all sides in the remaining disputes to reach agreements so businesses and Londoners can plan for the longer term and give fresh energy to the economic recovery.”

A Rail Delivery Group spokesperson said: “The decision by RMT members at Network Rail to overwhelmingly accept the latest pay offer is great news, and shows the importance of allowing members a say in a democratic vote. Now, train operating staff will rightly be asking why their union continues to deny them the same opportunity as their Network Rail colleagues.

“We urge the RMT leadership to build on this positive momentum, come back to the negotiating table and agree a deal which will bring an end to this dispute and give Britain’s railway and its staff a secure long-term future.”