Rail union breaks off partial strike after improved pay offer

The RMT union has called off part of its forthcoming British railways strikes and announced plans to put a new salary offer from infrastructure owner Network Rail to a members’ vote instead.

Union general secretary Mick Lynch said in a message to members that the RMT had received a “better offer” from Network Rail.

“The National Executive Committee has taken the decision to suspend all industrial action in order to . . . there should be a referendum,” Lynch said.

The union had planned to launch a 24-hour strike among Network Rail members on March 16, and has also lifted a planned overtime ban to disrupt operations and maintenance on non-strike days.

Network Rail had previously offered a 9 percent pay rise over two years tied to sweeping reforms that the RMT opposed.

The union is embroiled in a month-long row across the rail industry and four days of strikes at rail companies on March 16, 18 and 30 and April 1 are still planned.

But the decision to consult Network Rail members raised hopes of a breakthrough to end at least some of the strikes that have been hitting the network since last summer.

It also marked a significant shift for RMT leadership, which last month demanded “unconditional” wage offers from the industry and dismissed employers’ insistence that any pay rises must be funded by the union, which is aligned with modernized labor practices.

Although the amendments to the agreement were not immediately available, there was no indication that the organization had halted its significant reform program.

“We are relieved for our employees, passengers and freight customers that Network Rail’s industrial action has now been suspended,” said Andrew Haines, Chief Executive of Network Rail.

The potential breakthrough came just days after negotiations in a separate dispute with rail operators seemed on the brink of failure.

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, warned the RMT on Friday that it would end national negotiations unless the union submitted its own 9 percent wage proposal to a members’ vote.

The RDG said that if the union did not elect members, the talks would be escalated to the individual railway companies involved in the dispute.

On Tuesday, the RMT said it would provide updates “on all aspects of the national rail dispute” in the coming days.

https://www.ft.com/content/566951a8-c004-44ef-ade6-6b4b469cdc58 Rail union breaks off partial strike after improved pay offer

Brian Ashcraft

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