Daily Mail

RMT suspends rail strike after new pay offer

- By David Churchill Chief Political Correspond­ent

RAIL union chiefs last night called off a strike at Network Rail planned for next week – raising hopes that months of crippling walkouts could soon end.

The RMT union said workers will no longer strike on Thursday, March 16, after a new pay offer was tabled.

It will put the offer to members in a ballot in the coming days, but is yet to decide if it will recommend a vote in favour. However, the cancelling of the strike after talks previously broke down suggests it may back the deal.

It came after Network Rail, which employs signallers and track maintenanc­e workers, improved its previous 9 per cent pay offer. This would have been paid over two years, with 5 per cent backdated for last year and 4 per cent this year. It was unclear last night what the new offer is.

But industry sources said the dates for this year’s offer had been moved to ‘give more of a backpay uplift’, suggesting that RMT members will get a larger initial lump sum if they settle. Network Rail boss

Andrew Haines said: ‘ We are relieved for our people, passengers and freight customers that industrial action in Network Rail has now been suspended. We look forward to further informatio­n on plans for a referendum.’

RMT strikes involving workers for 14 train operating companies, such as Southern, Avanti West Coast and Greater Anglia, will go ahead on March 16, 18, 30 and April 1.

But up to 80 per cent of trains can now run on those days because Network Rail staff will be working.

When Network Rail staff strike, only around 20 per cent of services are able to run due to the lack of signallers. There are now hopes that the train operators’ strike action could also be called off as industry bosses may ‘copy and paste’ the latest Network Rail offer and put it to their staff too.

A dispute with train drivers’ union Aslef is also yet to be resolved. But the new Network Rail offer could be used to unlock the impasse.

Passengers have endured crippling strikes since June last year. The RMT has staged 16 and Aslef eight. The walkouts are estimated to have cost the industry at least £500million – enough to have settled the RMT dispute at the outset. It was unclear last night whether Network Rail had caved in over demands for working reforms, such as using more technology during maintenanc­e work and drones to spot track faults.

The Network Rail offer also includes no compulsory redundanci­es until 2025.

RMT members voted to reject the 9 per cent pay offer in December when it was put to them in a ballot.

But more than a third voted in favour despite the union recommendi­ng against this.

It suggests the latest offer is likely to be accepted.

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