Rail strikes: RMT votes to accept Network Rail pay offer
Members of the RMT union have voted to accept a pay offer from Network Rail.
Thousands of rail workers including signalling staff voted by three to one in favour to accept the offer, a 9% pay increase over two years, in a referendum that closed on Monday.
The union said that on a turnout of nearly 90%, its members voted by 76%-24% to accept the offer, and it was ending its dispute with Network Rail.
The result should spell an end to the most disruptive strikes, and will raise hopes that all pay disputes across the railway could soon be settled, although the RMT said the ball was “in the government’s court”.
RMT members at 14 train operators are still poised to strike on two days next week – 30 March and 1 April – and drivers in the Aslef union have not yet settled their dispute.
However, the breakthrough with the RMT at Network Rail – where the union that has called most strikes has most leverage – will be welcomed by the industry as a vital moment in resolving the most widespread strikes in decades.
The RMT general secretary, Mick Lynch, said that the union had initially been told in spring 2022 that workers would only get a 2% or 3% pay rise. He added: “However, since then strike action and the inspiring solidarity and determination of members has secured new money and a new offer which has been clearly accepted by our members and that dispute is now over.
“Our dispute with the train operating companies remains firmly on and our members recent highly effective strike action across the 14 train companies has shown their determination to secure a better deal.
“If the government now allows the train companies to make the right offer, we can then put that to our members, but until then the strike action scheduled for 30 March and 1 April will take place. The ball is in the government’s court.”
The Network Rail deal is understood to be worth up to 15.2% more to the lowest paid, with all pay increased by at least £1,750 and some additional backdated pay agreed in the revised offer, after the deal was initially rejected in a vote before Christmas.
Ministers, however, have insisted that the current offer from train operators is the “best and final”. The transport secretary, Mark Harper, said: “I am pleased Network Rail’s RMT members have voted to accept a fair and reasonable 5% plus 4% pay offer, over two years, that the government worked hard to facilitate.
“While this is good news, unfortunately, RMT members who work for train operating companies are not being given the same chance to bring their dispute to an end. That’s because the RMT has refused to put the Rail Delivery Group’s [RDG] very similar offer to a vote, denying these members the pay rise they deserve.
“That’s why I am once again urging the RMT to call off their upcoming strikes across train operating companies, put the Rail Delivery Group offer to a vote, and give all of their members a say.”
The Network Rail chief executive, Andrew Haines, said: “I’m pleased that RMT members were able to vote on this offer and the overwhelming vote in favour is good news for our people, our passengers and our country. My team and I will now focus all our efforts on rebuilding our railway.”
The RMT has just over 20,700 members at Network Rail, including 18,300 in grades voting in the referendum, out of 42,000 Network Rail staff. About 20,000 train operator and station staff are in the RMT and still in dispute; roughly 3,000 in the smaller TSSA union accepted the RDG pay offer last month.
About 12,000 drivers in Aslef are employed by national rail train operators contracted to the Department for Transport and remain in dispute. Drivers have staged fewer strikes but are usually able to halt services entirely when they do so. While a final settlement with Aslef is thought to be some way off, talks are continuing and no more strikes are expected at this point.