Published: 29th May 2015
The Rail and Maritime Transport Union (RMT) has again threatened industrial action on the UK rail network following the collapse of the pay talks with Network Rail (NR). They appeared to have reached agreement and the proposed strike and overtime ban for the end of May was called off, but it seems that the RMT leadership has failed to get their members approval of the deal agreed to in discussions facilitated by ACAS.
Mark Carne, chief executive said: Our people know that there are ways to improve the way work is done. I have always said that if we work together to realise these benefits there is the possibility to increase pay. We are therefore ready to get around the table with whoever the RMT consider can speak on behalf of their members. It is clearly unacceptable for the RMT to massively disrupt the travelling public with strike action when we are ready to continue talks.
We will now restart contingency planning with the train companies, but if a national rail strike does go ahead, rail services will be severely affected.
The deal on the table which had been agreed was all NR staff covered by the negotiations would have a 1% consolidated increase on their base salary backdated to 1 January 2015 (with a guaranteed minimum increase of £250 consolidated per annum- pro-rata for part-time staff). These staff would then receive a 1.4% consolidated increase, on 1 January 2016 while the unions and
NR committed to continue working with ACAS to agree smarter and better ways of working. Once this was agreed, another 0.7% consolidated pay rise on basic salary from 1 January 2016 would be applied.
NR guaranteed that there would be no compulsory redundancies until the end of 2016 that they would start discussions with the unions to agree a comprehensive job security package for the future. Staff covered by these arrangements are operations and customer services, maintenance and controller grades including all signalling and supervisory grades, Electrical Control Office staff and all operational grades.
The RMT has announced that there will be a 24 hour strike from 1700hrs Thursday 4th June and a 48 hours strike from 1700hrs Tuesday 9th June. Just as damaging to passengers and the rail industry is the threat of action ‘short of a strike’ as the RMT described it, from 00.01 Saturday 6th June to 23.59 on Friday 12th June inclusive. This last action means that no overtime, additional hours, extended shifts or call-outs will be worked in the latter period.
The industrial action covers nearly 16,000 staff across NR and the RMT says that it is in no doubt that a decent pay settlement for NR staff is entirely affordable. This is because they say that the company generated £1 billion of profits in the most recent financial year due to the effort and commitment of its staff. And NR is paying out £60 million in bonuses with top managers able to hit a bonus level up to 50% of their actual income.
The industrial action means that if there is a signal failure or overhead line failure, it won’t be fixed until after the industrial action is over. In fact, NR only offered Virgin West Coast (VWC) non-electric train paths in the cancelled dispute which is one reason why VWC decided to cancel all services.
This was also because it seems that NR could not offer any guarantee that the Voyager trains could get from their base at Central Rivers near Burton to the West Coast Main Line in anycase!
Each day of the strike could trigger claims under Schedule 8 of the Track Access Agreement totalling £30 million to train operators while each additional 1% on the pay offer means an additional £7.5 million in real costs to the company the RMT claims.
“Our representatives have today rejected the pay package offered by Network Rail and in the absence of any further movement from the company that has left us with no option but to move to a rolling programme of industrial action which will begin next Thursday.
‘We have a massive mandate for action which shows the anger of safety-critical staff across the rail network at attacks on their standards of living and the blunt truth is that this dispute could be settled for a fraction of the money being handed out in senior manager bonuses and to the train operators for not running services. That is a ludicrous situation which should never have been allowed to have arisen.
“With no shortage of cash in the bonus pot and to compensate the private train companies it is no wonder that our members take the view that 1% is wholly inadequate and fails to recognise the massive pressures staff are working under to keep services running safely at a time when the company is generating profits of £1 billion. It is our members battling to keep Britain moving around the clock, often in appalling conditions, and they deserve a fair share from Network Rail for their incredible efforts.
said: I condemn the strike action wholeheartedly and urge the union to reconsider. Over the past 4 years Network Rail staff have enjoyed pay rises 8 times higher than other public sector workers. By any measure RMT members already get a fair deal. It is very disappointing that RMT has now rejected a deal delivered through Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) talks that the union’s leadership agreed was a reasonable offer.
The RMT has called a series of strikes over what they claim is the harsh decision taken by Transpennine Express (TPE) management to dismiss a union member following a train despatch irregularity at Grimsby Town.
The union says that their member could have been redeployed into ‘a perfectly valid vacancy’ but wasn’t, hence the strike. This was despite extenuating circumstances and the honesty of the individual who now faces the loss of his livelihood.
Before the incident, a gang of youths had been acting in an anti-social manner at the station and when the train arrived at Grimsby, one of the gang (known to have an ASBO the RMT says) tried to ‘surf’ on the outside of the train. The RMT member saw this and ceased the despatch process and shouted and gesticulated to the youth to move away from the train.
When the train eventually departed, the youth once again “surfed” the train by holding on to the door frame and standing on the small step board while travelling at 7mph for about 15 meters before jumping back off and the train continuing.
The RMT says its member saw the youth, and judged it was safer to allow the youth to jump back off at slow speed rather than triggering an emergency stop possibly throwing the youth off balance. As the train passed the gang, the ‘surfing’ youth directed foul and abusive language at the RMT member and spat at him.
After a ballot, all TPE Conductor members located at Cleethorpes and Sheffield will take industrial action all day on Sundays 7/21/28 June 2015 and will not do any overtime on Saturdays from 30th May to 27June 2015. The RMT is now to ballot all TPE conductor members.
“Our sacked member has maintained an unblemished safety and disciplinary record during his ten years of employment with First Transpennine Express. This union remains firmly of the opinion that his dismissal is overly harsh and unwarranted.
“This dispute is about recognising the particular circumstances of this case and ensuring that the duty of care to staff facing abuse and dangerous behaviour on the railways is properly recognised. RMT remains available for talks.”