UK rail strikes: unions agree to work with operators towards revised pay offer

Union leaders have agreed to work jointly with train operating companies on a revised pay offer following a meeting to resolve the long-running dispute over remuneration, jobs and conditions.

Representatives from the RMT and TSSA unions met on Thursday with the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), representing train operating companies, in an effort to break the deadlock after months of disruption to the network from 24-hour strikes.

A spokesperson for the RDG said: “We have had detailed discussions and we are working jointly towards a revised offer. Both parties have agreed to continue discussions over the next few days.”

Speaking after the meeting at the offices of FirstGroup, in London, the RMT general secretary, Mick Lynch, said rail employers had not made a new pay deal but the union had agreed to work with them to come up with one.

He said: “We have been in detailed discussions with the Rail Delivery Group for the train operating companies. We are working jointly towards a revised offer for their section of the dispute.

“We’ve agreed that over the next couple of days we’ll continue to work on that through discussions, and we’ll see what comes of it. And that’s all we can say at this time I’m afraid.”

Asked if the proposal was different from the previous offer on the table, he said: “We haven’t got an offer so we’ll leave it for another day.”

Luke Chester, organising director at the TSSA union, said there had been “interesting and detailed discussions” at the meeting, adding: “We’re working towards hopefully something which will resolve the dispute. We’re not there yet but we’ll be having more discussions over the next few days and see where we get to.”

Asked about the atmosphere in the meeting, Chester said: “Well we weren’t climbing over tables punching each other, that’s not the way it works at all. Discussions are always cordial, sometimes heated but they’re always cordial. We’re professionals in that way.” On hopes for making a deal, he said: “We’ll have to see how the talks progress. I can’t predict the future.”

Prior to the meeting Lynch had said they expected to get a “very tight proposal” with a “way below inflation” pay offer, and warned he expected it to be ungenerous with onerous conditions attached.

Downing Street had said it hoped to see progress in the talks and was expecting a renewed pay offer from rail employers. A spokesperson for No 10 said: “It is the Rail Delivery Group rather than government who put forward these offers – they are the employers. It is my understanding that they are tabling a renewed offer, so we would hope to see progress in the coming days. It is for unions and employers to work through the detail of negotiations.”

The crunch talks come just a day after Tim Shoveller, the lead negotiator for Network Rail, told MPs that the chances of a settlement in its own separate dispute with the RMT were “seven out of 10”.

He told members of the transport select committee that they needed to persuade 2,000 more of the union’s members to accept a deal, and that this could be done through “very carefully targeted discussions”.

The RMT last month rejected a deal worth 9% over two years, although the smaller numbers of staff in the TSSA and Unite unions accepted the Network Rail offer.

The train drivers’ union, Aslef, told the committee on Wednesday that there was zero chance of an agreement in its dispute.

Lynch said that any proposal received this Thursday would need to be put to the membership. “When [a proposal is] in a position to vote on, there will be a vote of our members. The only way this dispute is going to be resolved is if our members accept the proposals from Network Rail and the train operators in a referendum. It’s the only way we’ll resolve it.”


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