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The RMT, the largest rail union, is looking for a resolution to their ongoing and acrimonious conflict with train companies. This comes after several weeks of behind-the-scenes discussions aimed at reaching an agreement that can be presented to union members.
A deal has been seemingly struck with the 14 railway companies that are under contract by the government and represented by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG).
Railway workers across the country have been participating in strikes starting on June 21, 2022, marking the first national rail strikes since the 1980s. These strikes have been ongoing sporadically since then. The unions representing the railway workers are pushing for a pay deal without any conditions, while the train companies, supported by government officials, insist that any salary increase must be tied to changes in working conditions.
The labor union has announced that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlines a plan for both parties to reach a mutual agreement, which includes a retroactive salary increase for employees in 2022 and assurances of job security.
The proposed agreement transfers the responsibility for modernization discussions to a regional level, involving individual train companies.
Mick Lynch, the general secretary of RMT, commented on the potential agreement: “We are pleased with this progress and our members will have the opportunity to vote on whether they accept the updated proposal through an online referendum.”
Members will have the opportunity to vote on the proposal in an online referendum that ends on November 30.
The union stated that if the proposal is approved, it will put an end to the national disagreement and provide a break from work stoppages during the holiday season and into the following spring.
“These discussions would be aimed at addressing the companies’ proposals on the changing needs and expectations of passengers as well as unlocking further increases for staff, in order to help to secure a sustainable, long-term future for the railway and all those who work on it.”
The DfT spokesperson expressed approval of the RMT presenting a fair and reasonable proposal to its members in a referendum, which is a positive step towards resolving the dispute.
The proposal from the Rail Delivery Group ensures that there will be no required job cuts and includes a reasonable salary increase. It also allows us to implement necessary changes to protect the future of our railway system.
“We are optimistic that RMT members will acknowledge the advantages of this offer and resolve the RMT’s industrial action by accepting it.”
In the previous month, RMT members had a 90:10 majority vote in favor of increasing industrial action, with a turnout of 64 percent.
At the time, Mr. Lynch stated, “If a new offer is not presented, we will resort to strike action to protect the livelihoods of our members.”
However, with many members having suffered significant financial losses due to multiple strikes, the union leadership has been searching for a solution.
The job became simpler when train companies decided not to go through with their initial idea of shutting down most ticket offices at train stations in England. The government had initially instructed the rail companies to come up with plans for closures, but later instructed them to discard those plans.
It is anticipated that RMT members will support a resolution. Should it be approved, additional discussions will occur at the regional level.
In the previous year, the RMT conducted strikes during the holiday season, occurring on five different occasions spanning multiple days from December 13th to January 7th.
However, as the strike has persisted, train companies have been increasing the number of trains running on days when the RMT union is striking, thus lessening the impact of the walkouts.
On the other hand, Aslef, the union representing train drivers, is still carrying out strikes that are causing significant disruptions to the rail network.
Mick Whelan, the general secretary of Aslef, has alleged that both rail companies and government officials are attempting to seize control of employee terms and conditions, resulting in a 20% decrease in pay.
The financial situation of the railway industry suffered greatly due to the effects of Covid lockdowns, resulting in a significant decrease in revenue that has yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels.
Ticket sales for the season, which used to be a major source of income for the industry, have dramatically decreased. The industry is currently experiencing a loss of £4,000 per minute, in addition to the usual taxpayer subsidy of £12,300 per minute.
There is currently no indication of an agreement being reached between the employers and the Aslef union, which represents train drivers. Additional strikes are expected leading up to Christmas and continuing into the New Year.
The most recent strike action taken by Aslef members occurred on October 4th.