Rail Strikes go ahead as RMT Declines Government’s Latest Pay Rise Offer

Rail Strikes go ahead as RMT Declines Government’s Latest Pay Rise Offer

Members of the rail workers union have voted to reject a 9% pay rise proposed by Network Rail, Britain’s largest railway operator. RMT is threatening to disrupt services during Christmas Eve and New Years if its demands to increase pay to keep in line with rising cost of living are not met.

On Tuesday, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) will begin its first 48-hour strike of the planned series of industry action to be conducted over the festive period. This comes a day after Britain’s largest railway union rejected the latest pay rise offer put forward by Network Rail, owner and operator of the country’s railway system. Workers across the UK including nurses, postal workers and border force officials have been demanding better pay to keep in line with the country’s growing inflation, which now stands at 11.1% – the highest in over 40 years.

Network Rail offered its workers a pay rise of 5% backdated for this year and added another 4% from the start of 2023, in efforts to fend off further strikes which has been disrupting travel for millions of rail users during the busiest time of the year. However, over 60% of RMT members at Network Rail voted against the offer in an electronic referendum and decided to go ahead with the strikes planned for this week and Christmas Eve.

“Huge rejection of Network Rail’s substandard offer shows that our members are determined to take further strike action in pursuit of a negotiated settlement. The government is refusing to lift a finger to prevent these strikes and it is clear they want to make effective strike action illegal in Britain,” said RMT General Secretary, Mick Lynch.

The 48-hour strikes will take place on December 13-14 and 16-17, followed by an overtime working ban until another set of strikes scheduled to take place on January 3-4 and 6-7 goes ahead. The union’s strike from Christmas Eve to until 7:00 am on December 27 will mainly affect engineering and maintenance works, as less people will be travelling during the holiday period.

Rail Strikes go ahead as RMT Declines Government’s Latest Pay Rise Offer

“We will resist that and our members, along with the entire trade union movement, will continue their campaign for a square deal for workers, decent pay increases and good working conditions,” added Lynch.

The protests expected to be participated in by 40,000 RMT members at Network Rail and 14 train operators will disrupt 80% of services operating across the country. Trains will only be running on main intercity and urban lines between the hours of 7:30 am and 6:00 pm with reduced service, while much of rural England, Wales and Scotland will have no trains operating at all during the strikes.

However, members of TSSA and Unite have voted to accept Network Rail’s offer. Both the unions have suspended industrial action and called off parallel strikes scheduled for December and January against the company that operates Britain’s rail tracks, signalling and most stations. This is a welcome note for Network Rail who will have sufficient manpower to operate up to a certain extent during the RMT strikes. The rail operator has asked RMT to “stop playing politics” and work with them to end the dispute that is affecting millions of travellers and the UK’s already dire economy. Network Rail has said that its offer of up to 9% pay increase with a guarantee of no redundancies and no changes to terms and conditions of work contract is still on the table.

On Monday, transport minister Mark Harper stated in a column on The Daily Telegraph that the Rishi Sunak government has been working hard to ensure there is a fair two-year pay deal on the table. The minister also said that the cabinet’s proposed deal was more generous than what’s being offered in the private sector and would unlock “essential reforms” that could benefit rail workers.

Network Rail will continue to work closely with operators to run as many services as possible during this week’s strike. But the company has asked commuters to travel only if absolutely necessary.

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