The biggest rail workers’ union has rejected what the Transport Secretary has described as the “best and final offers” aimed at resolving the long-running disputes over pay, jobs and conditions.
Mark Harper described the move by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) to reject the proposals from Network Rail and the train operating companies as “a kick in the teeth for passengers”.
He said it is clear “no realistic offer” will be accepted by the union as hopes faded that the dispute will be resolved any time soon.
Mick Lynch, the RMT’s general secretary, said they had to reject the “dreadful offers” after a consultation of his members and vowed to keep up industrial action for “as long as it takes”.
The RMT said its executive decided to reject both offers on the basis that they do not meet members’ expectations on pay, job security or working conditions.
The union said it was seeking an “unconditional” pay offer, a job security agreement and no detrimental changes being imposed on members’ terms, conditions and working practices.
The union said it believes Network Rail’s plans for maintenance were unsafe, unhealthy for staff and unworkable. Network Rail rejects the union’s claims.
But Mr Harper said: “The RMT’s rejection of these best and final offers is a kick in the teeth for passengers across the country and their own members, who having been ordered to take strike action are now being blocked from having a say on their own future.
“It is now clear that no realistic offer is ever going to be good enough for the RMT leadership.”
The RMT said it will now seek further meetings with Network Rail and the Rail Delivery Group to try to achieve a negotiated settlement.
Mr Lynch said: “We have carried out an in-depth consultation of our 40,000 members and the message we have received loud and clear is to reject these dreadful offers.
“Our members cannot accept the ripping up of their terms and conditions or to have safety standards on the railway put into jeopardy under the guise of so-called modernisation.
“If our union did accept these offers, we would see a severe reduction in scheduled maintenance tasks, making the railways less safe, the closure of all ticket offices and thousands of jobs stripped out of the industry when the railways need more investment, not less.
“Our industrial campaign will continue for as long as it takes to get a negotiated settlement that meets our members’ reasonable expectations on jobs, pay and working conditions.”
Both Network Rail and the Rail Delivery Group have offered a pay deal worth 9% over two years.
The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) said its members will vote on the same offer it has received from the Rail Delivery Group.
A TSSA spokesman said: “Members involved in this long-running dispute will now have the chance to vote on whether what the train companies have come up with is enough to address their demands.
“What is on the table now is a result of careful negotiations and the commitment of our members in their determination to demonstrate our collective industrial strength.”
A Rail Delivery Group spokesman said: “Our passengers and many hard-working RMT members will be deeply dismayed that the union leadership has opted to reject our fair proposals without putting out a vote to their full membership in a democratic referendum.
“Having listened to the union’s concerns during recent negotiations, we went back to the table with substantial changes to give colleagues a minimum pay increase of at least 9% over two years – rising to over 13% for the lowest paid – which they will now miss out on without even having had an opportunity to have their say. We removed driver-only operation and gave an improved job security offer.
“The railway’s financial crisis is not going away. We remain willing to engage, but the RMT leadership must now accept the urgent need to make the railway fit for the future for both our people, and the communities the railway serves.”
Tim Shoveller, Network Rail chief negotiator, said: “The RMT’s leadership is condemning its members to a further round of fruitless, pointless and costly strikes, for passengers, for employees and for the economy.
“We have made multiple concessions, compromises and offers, while the RMT has shifted on nothing.
“It’s time for a second referendum on our new, revised offer and time to end this and work together to rebuild our railway.”