Rail bosses warn union barons they will force through reforms if they continue to snub 8% pay rise offer
- Network Rail has risked escalating its row with the militant RMT union over pay
- Rail bosses can legally press ahead with modernisation of working practices without the RMT union’s consent in the coming weeks and months
- But it could backfire by further angering the RMT and triggering more strikes
Rail bosses yesterday warned union barons they will force through reforms to working practices if they carry on snubbing an 8 per cent pay rise offer.
Network Rail risked escalating its row with the militant RMT union over pay and jobs security by serving it with a so-called ‘section 188’ warning.
It means they can legally press ahead with modernisation of working practices without the union’s consent in the coming weeks.
The move by the agency, which manages signalling and track maintenance, will be seen as an attempt to bounce the RMT into accepting its pay offer.
But it could backfire by further angering the RMT and triggering more strikes.
Network Rail wants to use technology more to detect obstacles on the line, roster staff more flexibly and multi-skill workers so less need to attend certain jobs.
It says accepting these changes could unlock millions of pounds in efficiency savings to give RMT workers a pay rise of 8 per cent over this year and next.
But the union has rejected the offer, instead staging four national strikes with the latest on Wednesday. It has called another two national walkouts on August 18 and 20.
RMT General Secretary Mike Lynch arrives at the RMT Headquarters
RMT supporters protest outside offices of Network Rail as a nationwide strike called by the RMT Union was held today on July 27, 2022 in Glasgow, Scotland
A senior source acknowledged Network Rail’s move could provoke a ‘hostile reaction’ from the union, but said: ‘We cannot be held to ransom over modernising our working practices.’
They added: ‘It’s not something we do with any sense of appetite or relish, but faced with that finding crisis in the industry it’s something we absolutely have to do.’
In contrast to the RMT’s approach, yesterday it emerged the TSSA rail union has put the same pay offer to its Network Rail members in a referendum rather than go on strike.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: ‘This is a positive step forward. Network Rail has put a good offer on the table and we very much hope TSSA’s members will endorse it.
‘Other unions should sit up and take notice and realise we can best deliver reform by industry and unions working together.
‘We urge other unions to stop playing politics and follow the TSSA’s lead by giving their members the chance to have their say on Network Rail’s proposals.’
Mr Haines said: ‘The way people live and work has changed since the pandemic. On the railway, that means significantly fewer commuters and significantly less income.
‘This year we’ll see a shortfall of around £2bn compared with 2019.
A senior source acknowledged Network Rail’s move could provoke a ‘hostile reaction’ from the union (supporters pictured), but said: ‘We cannot be held to ransom over modernising our working practices’
‘It would be wrong to fund this deficit through increases in fares or taxes when we know that some of our working practices are fundamentally broken.
‘That’s why we must make progress with modernising the way we carry out maintenance work and making the savings that are necessary for the future of our railway.
‘We haven’t given up on finding a negotiated way forward. We have made a good pay offer and our door remains open, but we can’t continue to circle the same ground day after day, week after week and not move forward.
‘These reforms are too important, especially given we started these conversations 18 months ago.
‘It is vital that we progress our modernisation plans to help put our railway on a sustainable financial footing for the future.’
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