Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union leader Mick Lynch has said its members will decide whether to accept an offer to end the long-running dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.
The RMT general secretary claimed the Rail Delivery Group’s (RDG) offer is “very challenging”, adding: “I don’t know if our members would be prepared to accept it.”
But he stressed that members would be consulted over the coming days before the union’s leadership makes a decision, GB News reported on Saturday.
It comes after the RDG of train operating companies last week made a “best and final offer” to end the deadlock.
This included a minimum pay rise of 9% over two years and guaranteed no compulsory redundancies until at least the end of December 2024 – an improvement to the previous offer of April 1 2024.
Members of the RMT and the Aslef train drivers union are set to strike again on Wednesday and Friday.
Wednesday’s walkouts will come on a day of widespread industrial action, with teachers in England and Wales and around 100,000 civil servants among those set to strike.
On Saturday, Mr Lynch told GB News: “We got an offer last week, and train operating companies are now continuing in discussions with Network Rail.
“The offer that they’ve made is very challenging for our people.
“There are branch meetings happening all over the country, regional meetings, and we’ll get reports back from those meetings from negotiating officers about what our members think…
“So that will happen over the next 10 days or so and then we’ll make a decision about what we want to do with the offer.”
Under the offer, staff who are paid below a certain threshold will receive a guaranteed £1,750 in year one, ensuring that lower paid employees benefit most.
Pay would be backdated to the relevant 2022 pay award date with employers, enabling staff to benefit from a lump sum payment in the first available pay run.
But Mr Lynch said pay is not the main issue for members.
He added: “A lot of people find it really challenging to see the closure of every booking office in Britain.
“The clampdown on their terms and conditions is not going down well in the country amongst our members.
“Pay is not the issue that’s burning with our members.
“It’s their conditions and the way that they work.”
The RDG has said many of its proposals “simply extend” best practice already in place in parts of the network, including the creation of a new multi-skilled station role, new “station groups” so that staff are more able to move between stations to help passengers, for example where there are staff shortages, and the use of part-time contracts and flexible working rosters.
Current voluntary working arrangements on Sundays would be formalised, which the RDG said would help to reduce delays and disruption for passengers during weekend travel at a time when Sunday travel demand has increased significantly post-Covid.
A voluntary redundancy scheme will be made available for those who wish to leave the industry.
The contentious issue of expanding driver-only operation is not included in the new offer.
Mr Lynch said: “We’re just giving it a thorough discussion, because it took six months to get this offer.
“I’m not optimistic until our members tell me to be optimistic.
“What we’ve got is a really poor offer, the pay offer is less than half of the rate of inflation over these two years.
“I’m quite suspicious about what’s going on and I don’t know if our members would be prepared to accept it.
“It’ll be up to our members to decide, and they’ll inform the leadership.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “This dispute has gone on for far too long and we encourage the RMT to put this new offer to its members.
“This fair and reasonable offer guarantees employees a pay rise in line with the private sector and no compulsory redundancies, while delivering the reforms needed to address the long-term challenges facing the industry.”
The RDG has been approached for comment.
Published: 29/01/2023 by Radio NewsHub