Light at the end of the tunnel? RMT members get set to vote on Network Rail pay offer which could stop months of crippling strikes
Members of the RMT are today expected to vote in favor of the latest Network Rail pay offer – paving the way for months of crippling strikes to finally end.
The rail union launched a ballot on March 9 which will close at midday, with the results expected to be announced shortly after.
Last night senior rail sources were quietly confident a majority of workers have backed the 9 per cent offer.
A similar deal was rejected in December but 36 per cent still backed it despite the RMT advising members not to. The latest offer is better as it gives workers a larger up-front sum while the RMT is not advising them which way to vote.
A senior industry source said: ‘We don’t count our chickens, but the mood of the music is certainly more positive. That’s principally because the union hasn’t put out a communication to reject it.
Last night senior rail sources were quietly confident a majority of workers have backed the 9 per cent offer. Pictured: Mick Lynch
Mick Lynch joins union members on the picket line outside Euston station on Saturday March 18
‘Everything we’ve heard is very positive. People are voting for it in bigger numbers than last time.
‘The vast majority of members have already voted and we’re expecting a majority will have voted in favor.’ They added that more track maintenance workers appeared to be voting in favor this time.
Winning their approval is seen as key as many are understood to have rejected the last offer while a majority of signalers thought to be in favour.
It comes amid growing optimism at resolving disputes in other sectors, with unions representing nurses, ambulance workers and physiotherapists postponing strikes last week while they vote on a new offer.
Last week the British Medical Association postponed strikes by junior doctors to hold pay talks. Teachers are also beginning negotiations.
The latest Network Rail offer is worth just over 9 per cent over 2022 and this year, with 5 per cent for last year and 4 per cent for 2023.
This year’s settlement will be backdated to October 2022, meaning workers will receive an extra £500 as part of an initial lump sum.
For the lowest paid, the deal is worth 14.4 per cent. It also includes no compulsory job losses until 2025 and 75 per cent off rail travel for staff and close families.
Separate disputes involving workers for 14 train operating companies and drivers’ union Aslef still need to be resolved.
However, disruption on strike days is much less severe when only workers for operators walk out as Network Rail employs signalers, which are crucial for running the network.
Overall at least half of the trains can run, with as many as 80 per cent on some routes.
But when Network Rail workers join strikes, only around one in five trains runs.
There are hopes, however, that a breakthrough in the Network Rail dispute could unlock one in the talks with operators, paving the way for an end to RMT strikes.
Workers for operators walked out on Saturday and Thursday last week (March 16 and 18) and two more were planned on March 30 and April 1.
The RMT has been calling walkouts since June last year.
A dispute with train drivers’ union Aslef is also yet to be resolved. However, an Aslef source said ‘the mood of the music is more positive’ in these talks.
There is the possibility for months of crippling strikes to finally end
The RMT has staged 18 national walkouts since June last year and Aslef 8.
The walkouts are estimated to have cost the industry at least £500 million – enough to have settled the RMT dispute at the outset.
The RMT declined to comment but a union source said it would announce the results of the referendum this afternoon (MON).
Cabinet minister Oliver Dowden yesterday defended not settling the NHS dispute quicker to avoid months of disruption. On the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg show, he was asked why ministers said more money was not possible only to improve their offer last week. Mr Dowden said ministers had to gain a deal which was ‘fair to nurses but, crucially, fair to the public finances’.