The British government hopes for an end to the rail strike at RMT
Government and industry officials have expressed optimism about a breakthrough to end the RMT’s longstanding national rail strikes after the sector’s largest union called off some of its industrial action and announced plans to offer members a revised Network Rail salary offer.
Britain’s largest transport union said late Tuesday that a new offer from Network Rail had “improved” the overall deal enough that it was ready to put it to its members.
Senior industry executives were surprised by the RMT’s sudden decision and optimistic that an agreement to settle a separate dispute with railway companies is now also possible.
A senior minister said he was confident the union’s postponement signaled an end to the months-long strikes that began last summer, especially as inflation is expected to ease from high levels that have sparked widespread labor unrest as unions tried to secure better pay for their members .
“It’s one thing to make those high wage demands when inflation is in double digits, but experts now predict it will fall to 5 percent in the summer, then 3 percent by the fall, and when that happens, then that’s it less expected public sympathy for the unions’ position,” said the minister. “The union leaders know this, which is why I think there will soon be pressure to come to an agreement.”
The decision marked a significant change in stance from the RMT, which less than a month ago hardened its position and called for “unconditional” salary offers with no built-in reforms. The union said it would call off a 24-hour strike at Network Rail in March, but still planned four days of industrial action on March 16, March 18 and 30 and April 1 in a separate dispute with railway companies.
Rail operators have called for urgent talks with the union, insisting that it should offer employees their salary. “Train staff will rightly wonder why their union continues to deny them the opportunity to comment on our equal offer,” said the Rail Delivery Group, which represents rail companies.
RMT and Network Rail declined to comment and have not released details of the new pay offer, but a person familiar with the content said the core wage increases were unchanged at 5 percent for 2022 and 4 percent for this year.
Instead, the timing of the increases has been changed to backdate this year’s raise to October 2022 and offer employees more money, including a larger lump sum to help with the cost-of-living crisis if they accept the deal. There were also some changes to plans to reform employee contracts, the person said.
Industry executives have hoped the RMT membership would tire in the long-running dispute, putting pressure on union leaders to reach an agreement with employers. Executives have claimed that the number of employees going to work on strike days has increased.
There was also frustration that deals negotiated with union negotiators, including General Secretary Mick Lynch, were flatly rejected by the union’s executive committee, which industry leaders see as tougher than many members.
The RMT claims it has strong support among members – citing repeated voices in favor of industrial action – and in a message to staff Tuesday, Lynch thanked members for their “solidarity and unwavering commitment.”
Train drivers, represented by Aslef, are locked in a separate dispute with the rail companies but have not set new strike dates as negotiations continue.
https://www.ft.com/content/48614948-6f87-4bbe-b3d7-baa3a0c0a363 The British government hopes for an end to the rail strike at RMT