Talks between Network Rail and rail unions are continuing aimed at averting a national rail strike on May 25-26 over pay and conditions.
Negotiations between NR and the RMT union began in October last year, and until recently had been considered to be progressing normally.
NR has offered a £500 non-consolidated lump payment and pay rises (to be applied for each year) in line with inflation from 2016 to 2018. However, the ‘No Compulsory Redundancy’ commitment is only being extended until December 31 2016, leading to concerns from the RMT about job cuts or transfer to contractors when this ends.
RMT members voted in two separate ballots. In the first, 7,695 (80% of the 9,556 who voted, a 60% turnout) said they were prepared to take action. In the second, 8,738 (91%) then voted in favour of industrial action short of a strike.
The RMT, which has around 16,000 members in Network Rail, says it is angry about NR’s proposed pay deal.
General Secretary Mick Cash said: “We have a massive mandate for action which shows the anger of safety-critical staff across the rail network at attacks on their standards of living and their job security. RMT remains available for talks, and we hope that Network Rail will agree to our call to come back to the table with an improved package.”
Members of the TSSA union also voted for industrial action, with a turnout of 52%, and 53% voting in favour of strikes. 79% then voted for action short of a strike.
RMT members working in operations, maintenance, Bands 5 to 8 and Customer Services have been instructed not to book on duty for shifts starting between 1700 on May 25 and 1659 on May 26. They are also instructed not to work any overtime, additional hours, extended shifts or callouts from 0001 on May 25 until 2359 on May 26.
Network Rail Chief Executive Mark Carne accused the RMT of “holding the country to ransom”, adding: “Our employees have received pay rises eight times higher than other public sector workers over the last four years and have now been offered a deal for the next four years that is unmatched elsewhere. The unions have also rejected a number of proposals that would boost productivity, removing our ability to offer them more.
“The RMT says we can afford more than what’s on offer. What they don’t say is that Network Rail is a public service body, and that all profits are reinvested in building a bigger, better, and more reliable railway.
“Any pay increase comes from the pockets of taxpayers and fare paying passengers.”
However, RMT spokesman Geoff Martin told RAIL that members were concerned about potential dilution of the railway’s safety regime when the No Compulsory Redundancy scheme ends, saying: “Our members can see a contractor culture that’s detrimental to railway safety - they fear being transferred to contractors.
“These are people doing highly skilled jobs with years of experience. You can’t recruit these people off the street, and they think they deserve a better deal.”