RMT turns down pay offer and announces extra strike over Christmas

ITV News Political Correspondent Harry Horton reports as the RMT union announces additional rail strikes on Christmas Eve as negotiations over pay and conditions continue

Further rail strikes from Christmas Eve have been announced as negotiations over pay and conditions drag on.

Members of the RMT transport union will also go ahead with walkouts as plannned on 13-14 and 16-17 December.

The union's general secretary Mick Lynch also confirmed fresh walkouts on Monday evening, announcing that further strike action by Network Rail workers would take place from 6pm on Christmas Eve, to 5.59am on 27 December.

Workers will also press ahead with two 48-hour strikes next week, Mr Lynch said.

He claimed 'there has been no improved offer' presented to the union, and that members have 'no choice' but to reject the 'extremely detrimental' pay rise on the table.

Strikes on 14 train companies will go ahead next week although talks will be held with the Rail Delivery Group on Tuesday.

Rail strikes have caused massive disruption across the UK Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

All scheduled overtime bans that had been due to take place in mid-December have been cancelled, Mr Lynch said.

The RMT boss added that it was unfortunate that that union had been compelled to take this action due to the continuing intransigence of the employers.

“We remain available for talks in order to resolve these issues but we will not bow to pressure from the employers and the government to the detriment of our members,” he said.

The union leader also announced announced a new offer from Network Rail would be put to members for a vote, with a recommendation to reject it.

A separate offer by the Rail Delivery Group, backdating a 4% pay rise for 2022, with the same the following year, was rejected by the RMT yesterday.

The deal from the rail industry body also included a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies to April 2024.

Reacting to the fresh rail strikes announcement, levelling up secretary Simon Clarke said: “This is dreadful by the RMT – ruining people’s Christmases with an 8% pay rise over two years on the table (and no compulsory redundancies).

"The railway received £16 billion – £600/household – in emergency funding during Covid and drivers’ median salary is £59k, staff’s is £44k.”

It comes as a wave of strikes are planned across a number of sectors, including education, postal services and nursing.

With inflation sitting at 11.1%, workers are asking for their pay to match the figure, but public sector staff also argue their wages have been held back for years.

Downing Street has not ruled out expanding legislation aimed at curbing the impact of strikes. Legislation on imposing minimum service levels on transport services during strikes has already been put forward, although MPs have not begun debating it.

While there are no current plans to widen its scope, No 10 said the situation was being kept under review.

Many businesses fear they will struggle as shoppers stay at home due to December's rail strikes, ITV News reports

“Our focus on legislation with regards to strikes is on minimum service levels, the Bill that we introduced in October is the first step in achieving this,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said. “We are keeping under review what is the right balance with regards to strikes. We won’t hesitate to bring forward changes if we judge they are required.”

Tim Shoveller, Network Rail’s chief negotiator, said: “This response from the RMT to a significantly enhanced offer exposes their true priority – using the British public and Network Rail workers as pawns in a fight with the Government.

Mr Lynch has accused the government of a "lack of urgency" as December strikes loom. Credit: PA Images

“What use is a referendum that means that strike disruption is inevitable? At best it’s the tactic the RMT played in October by calling the strikes off at the last minute and causing immense disruption to passengers and vital freight routes.

“They are playing fast and loose with people’s Christmas plans and the new strike dates announced deliberately target vital engineering work designed to improve the railway.

“A significantly improved offer is now on the table that gives Network Rail workers job security, a decent pay rise and some other substantial benefits for employees and their families.”

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said inflation-busting pay deals are unaffordable Credit: PA

Transport Secretary Mark Harper added: “It’s incredibly disappointing that, despite a new and improved deal offering job security and a fair pay rise, the RMT is not only continuing with upcoming industrial action but has called more strikes over Christmas.

“It’s especially disappointing given the TSSA union has described this new and improved deal as the ‘best we can achieve through negotiation’ and called off strikes.

“The Government has played its part by facilitating a fair and decent offer but, by instructing its members to reject it, the RMT has failed to play its part and our rail network now faces more harmful disruption rather than helpful discussion.”

TSSA calls off December Network Rail strikes

Meanwhile, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) announced it was calling off strikes planned for December and putting an offer to its members.

The TSSA had been due to strike on December 17 and take other forms of industrial action from December 13.

The union had announced that an offer from the Rail Delivery Group had been rejected, meaning industrial action at train operators would go ahead in the coming weeks.

But the TSSA said on Monday that after talks with Network Rail over the weekend, it had received a “best and final offer” in writing from the company, which was considered at a meeting of its reps.

Union members will vote in the coming weeks on whether to accept the offer.

Luke Chester, TSSA organising director, said: “Our union is pleased that this offer provides job security and certainty for Network Rail staff through to 2025 and we’re proud to have achieved a pay offer which provides for the lowest paid in the company with significant underpinning to ensure that those hardest hit by the cost-of-living crisis receive proportionately the most.

TSSA members were also planning on taking strike action. Credit: PA Images

“This offer shows what can be achieved when employers and unions are able to negotiate in good faith. It is significantly better than the offer put by the Rail Delivery Group, which we have rejected.

“On every issue – job security, pay and conditions – the RDG offer falls short and is shackled by Government interference. They need to look at what can be achieved when negotiations are not hindered and come back to the table with an improved offer that allows us to resolve this dispute once and for all.”

The TSSA said Network Rail had offered a minimum pay uplift of a consolidated £1,750 or a 5% increase (whichever is greater) to the annual base rates of pay effective from January 2022, and £250 to employees who earn £24,000 a year or less.

Pay will rise by 4% from January 2023.

Network Rail was also offering no compulsory redundancies for general grades and controllers until January 31 2025.

Staff and their families will also get a 75% discount on leisure travel and no unagreed changes to terms and conditions of employment will be made, the union said.

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