Members of the RMT union have voted to accept a pay offer from infrastructure owner Network Rail, ending one part of the disputes that have caused sweeping disruption on UK railways since last summer.
The union on Monday said 76 per cent of members had voted to accept the proposal of a 9 per cent pay rise over two years, with more for lower-paid staff, tied to significant modernisation of working practices.
The RMT vote ends the long-running industrial action against Network Rail, and will raise expectations of further deals to resolve other industrial action on the railways.
Although fresh talks are expected this week, the union is still in dispute with a group of train operating companies and is due to stage two 24-hour stoppages on March 30 and April 1. Meanwhile, train drivers remain in negotiations with train companies in their own dispute over pay, with no new strikes scheduled and new talks expected this week.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said next week’s action against train companies remained “firmly on” but that a deal was possible if companies “make the right offer”.
The RMT has rejected a similar two-year, 9 per cent pay offer from the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, and balked at many of the proposed reforms, which include the likely closure of many ticket offices.
Transport secretary Mark Harper said he was “pleased” by the RMT’s decision to end strikes at Network Rail but urged the union to call off upcoming strikes at train operators and let members decide, as they had at the infrastructure owner.
“While this is good news, unfortunately RMT members who work for train operating companies are not being given the same chance to bring their dispute to an end,” he said.
Still, the resolution of at least one dispute with the RMT, considered a particularly hardline union, is a boost to the government as it seeks to end the months-long wave of strikes across the public sector in England, sparked by high inflation.
Some health unions last week agreed to recommend a pay offer from the government to their members, consisting of 2 per cent of wages in 2022-23, an additional bonus of at least £1,250 and a minimum 5 per cent pay rise in 2023-24.
Junior doctors’ leaders will on Tuesday meet health secretary Steve Barclay to begin pay talks, following an unprecedented 72-hour walkout last week. They are pushing for a 35 per cent increase.
Meanwhile, negotiations are continuing between the government and education unions as part of a two-week “period of calm”, during which unions agreed not to announce fresh strike dates.
The “intensive talks” involving education secretary Gillian Keegan and the National Education Union, Association of School and College Leaders, National Association of Head Teachers and NASUWT are focused on pay and workload for teachers. All sides declined to comment on progress on Monday.
But the Public and Commercial Services union, which has been locked in a set of long-running disputes over civil servants’ pay, pensions and job security, is ramping up strike action.
The PCS on Monday said staff at the British Museum would walk out for seven days over the Easter holidays, while employees at the British Library would strike for 14 days. Driving examiners and staff at the National Highways agency will also stage further stoppages.
Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said members were “fed up with being at the back of the queue” as ministers sought deals with other parts of the public sector but had held “no meaningful talks with us”.