Daily Mail

Rail bosses ready to ditch pay talks with ‘ head in the sand’ RMT union

- By David Churchill Chief Political Correspond­ent

RAIL bosses are poised to pull the plug on pay talks with the RMT, accusing the union of having ‘its head in the sand’.

A leaked letter from industry chiefs to union barons reveals how drasticall­y talks have broken down and raises the prospect of strikes dragging on for months.

And in more misery for commuters, most train fares were increased yesterday by 5.9 per cent, with the price of a typical annual season ticket soaring by £192 to about £3,455.

The RMT has been in talks with the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents operators, since last summer. But they descended into acrimony last month after the union said it would only settle for a deal with no reforms to working practices, having said for months it would accept some changes in return for a pay increase.

A rail source said: ‘Talks are going nowhere. This is a union with its head in the sand that refuses to face up to reality. The financial crisis on the railway [caused by the pandemic and falling passenger numbers] won’t go away because the RMT wants it to.’

The RMT has refused to put the latest 9 per cent pay offer it has received to members in a vote.

But the leaked letter, from RDG boss Steve Montgomery to RMT chief Mick Lynch, points out that rail union TSSA has accepted the offer. It adds: ‘In the event that your executive committee is not willing to do this then I regretfull­y believe we have reached an impasse on progressin­g our industry level discussion­s.’

The letter says the RMT will have to talk to each of the 15 operators involved separately if it wants to reconvene talks. Separate talks with Network Rail, which manages infrastruc­ture, are also in the deepfreeze. The rejected offer included a 5 per cent base pay rise.

The next RMT strike will be on March 16, when staff on the train operators and Network Rail will walk out together. Only 20 per cent to 25 per cent of services will run. More walkouts will take place on March 18 and 30 and April 1. Yesterday’s fare hike is the highest in 11 years, although the 5.9 per cent rise is 6.4 percentage points lower than July’s retail prices index (RPI) inflation rate, which usually dictates increases.

The Government says it means ministers are stepping in with the ‘biggest ever interventi­on in rail fares’ and increases could have been even higher.

n The Unite union has called off today’s strikes by ambulance workers in England to enter pay talks with the Government. It follows Unison and GMB unions cancelling industrial action after Health Secretary Steve Barclay agreed on Friday to meet representa­tives.

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