RMT rejects improved salary offers aimed at ending UK rail strikes

The RMT union on Friday rejected wage proposals from employers in the UK rail industry aimed at ending a wave of strikes and warned industrial action could last into next winter.

The union turned down two offers of a 9 percent pay rise over two years linked to sweeping job reforms from railway companies and infrastructure manager Network Rail.

The RMT also revealed plans to re-elect union members to extend their industrial action for a further six months when it expires in May, but did not announce new strike dates.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is waging the biggest strikes in decades across the public and private sectors, including nurses, teachers and postal workers, as workers demand higher wages amid the cost of living crisis.

The government had hoped the rail dispute was nearing resolution after employers in the sector made improved salary offers.

But RMT general secretary Mick Lynch on Friday called The offers are “terrible” and call for new talks with employers.

“We have conducted an in-depth consultation of our 40,000 members and the message we have received loud and clear is to reject these terrible offers,” he said.

The offers required the RMT to commit to major changes in working practices, including a major reform of Network Rail’s maintenance operations and a requirement for train staff to work Sundays, in exchange for pay increases.

The union said it was looking for an “unconditional salary offer”, a job security agreement and “no adverse changes imposed on members’ working conditions and labor practices”.

Employers and the government, which sets the finances of the rail industry, said the salary proposals on the table were “final offers” that have deadlocked the dispute and left passengers with increasing uncertainty after more than seven months of strikes.

Industry bosses were optimistic that the RMT leadership would accept the offers, which were put together after months of negotiations punctuated by periodic strikes.

On Friday, employers expressed frustration at the RMT’s refusal to put the offers to members in a union-wide vote, but were heartened by the fact that no new strikes were announced.

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, said passengers and “many” RMT members will be “deeply dismayed” by the decision not to put the proposals to a vote.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper described the RMT’s response as “a kick in the face” for passengers.

“The leaders of the RMT should have had the courage to give their own members the opportunity to vote on their own salaries and conditions, rather than making that decision for them behind closed doors,” he said.

Some industry bosses and government officials have privately questioned whether union members will be willing to forego more wages if another round of strikes is called, reporting growing numbers of workers showing up to work during recent strikes.

Lynch said the union had conducted a “wide listening exercise”, including consulting “all levels” of the RMT.

Many of their members’ responses were highly critical of the industry’s proposals, and several industries have urged leaders to call more strikes immediately, according to an internal union memo provided to the Financial Times.

Given that the industry is losing $2 billion a year in revenue due to the rise in working from home and the drop in commuting.

The train drivers’ union Aslef is also at odds with the industry over pay and labor practices. This week she conducted a new round of talks with train operators.

https://www.ft.com/content/26282271-6d84-462a-90be-8011cdb40c85 RMT rejects improved salary offers aimed at ending UK rail strikes

Adam Bradshaw

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