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RMT boss accused of blocking 8% deal says it ‘doesn’t come close’ as strikes cripple UK

27 July 2022, 01:32 | Updated: 27 July 2022, 10:40

Network Rail has released a map which shows which train lines will be affected on Wednesday.
Network Rail has released a map which shows which train lines will be affected on Wednesday. Picture: Alamy/Network Rail

By Emma Soteriou

A rail union boss accused of blocking an 8% pay deal has said the offer “doesn’t come close” as further strikes grind Britain to a halt.

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Mick Lynch, the General Secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport workers union (RMT), has defended the decision not to put a pay offer to the union's members, which could have halted today's strikes.

He told LBC’s Nick Ferrari at Breakfast he didn’t want a “referendum” of all members but was “very satisfied” they support the RMT’s ongoing dispute.

“We have put [Network Rail’s offer] to our members,” he told Nick.

“The deal comes nowhere near meeting our demands in the dispute.

“We conducted the vote for our members on what the demands in the dispute are, we haven’t had an offer that matches that - that’s plain.

Read more: New map reveals full extent of rail misery as union workers prepare to strike

“[Network Rail’s offer] does not meet the demands of our members. We know they are unacceptable because our members have told us that.”

His comments come after Network Rail Chair Sir Peter Hendy told LBC they have made a number of offers to the RMT - none of which have been put to their members.

"This is the fourth day of dispute, we've made some offers, and none of them have ever been put to their members," he told Nick.

"We think that's quite unfair that the union leadership is not allowing members to understand what it is that we are able to offer them."

He said they were able to offer a two-year 8% deal with benefits and bonuses on the table, no compulsory redundancies, and 75% discounted travel.

Read more: RMT union announce another Tube strike with workers set to walkout on August 19

Read more: Rail strikes 'could last for months' if other side doesn't back down, Mick Lynch warns

"We think members deserve to at least be able to consider it," Sir Peter added.

"We can't get the RMT leadership and executive to put it to the members, and I think you and your listeners will draw their own conclusions about what that means about what they actually think they're fighting - whether they think they are trying to get a decent deal for their members or whether they are trying to take it out against the government."

The "4+4"deal would have seen workers granted a 4% pay rise followed by another 4% bump next year.

But the militant RMT union was on Tuesday night accused of “marching rail chiefs up the hill and down again” after negotiators were overruled.

Sources told The Telegraph that RMT union negotiator Eddie Dempsey was said to have believed there was a way to postpone Wednesday's crippling strikes, but proposals were reportedly rejected by the RMT ruling executive.

However, the RMT union has denied the reports and insisted that it was Network Rail that had changed their stance.

Network Rail has released a map that shows which lines will be affected.
Network Rail has released a map that shows which lines will be affected. Picture: Network Rail

A spokesman for the RMT told the newspaper: “We were optimistic about making enough progress to suspend strike action.

“However that evaporated when Network Rail hardened their position on attacking our members' conditions of work and even threatened to put compulsory redundancies back on the table.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has once again hit out at the "union dinosaurs" who keep "holding us back".

He told Nick the government will not allow unions to "win" amid industrial action on the railways, and said both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss back his proposals to modernise the rail system and end "forever strikes".

Thousands of commuters are set to face travel chaos across the country later today as more than 40,000 rail workers go on strike.

Fourteen train operating companies are taking action in an ongoing row over pay, jobs and conditions, which saw the network upended by the biggest rail strike in modern history last month.

A "very limited timetable" is in place due to only a fifth of services running, Network Rail has said.

Thousands of specially-trained and fully qualified back-up staff have been prepared to step in during the walkout to keep vital services running for those who need them.

It comes as a second strike is also due to take place on Saturday - with two more days of action planned to grind the country to a halt in August.

The RMT last night announced a third strike would also be taking place across the London Underground in August, meaning three gruelling consecutive days of travel hell for commuters.

Vast swathes of the country will be left without any rail services at all as operators from the RMT down their tools.

Network Rail has urged people not to travel and warned disruption is expected to last into Thursday morning, with a later start to services.

Many lines will be closed altogether during the strike, with a highly limited service running on other branches from 7.30am to 6.30pm.

Some parts of the country will be completely cut off, with no services running.

The Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) has also announced a strike by its members at Avanti West Coast on Wednesday, while members of the drivers union Aslef will strike on Saturday in a number of companies.

Last-ditch talks to avoid strike action have collapsed, meaning the UK is heading for further chaos on the rails this week.

Read more: Travel chaos for train passengers as RMT confirms next week's rail strikes will go ahead

Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said: “Despite our best efforts to find a breakthrough, I’m afraid there will be more disruption for passengers this week as the RMT seems hell-bent on continuing their political campaigning, rather than compromising and agreeing a deal for their members.

“I can only apologise for the impact this pointless strike will have on passengers, especially those travelling for holidays or attending events such as the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 semi-final (Wednesday 27th) and the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games (Thursday 28th).

"It is frustrating to yet again ask our passengers to change their plans and only make essential journeys."

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We are concerned about the impact this will have on the public going about their everyday lives.

"And we will continue to call on the RMT to call off the strikes, it is in their gift to prevent this disruption."

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said union members were more determined than ever to secure a decent pay rise, job security and good working conditions.

"Network Rail have not made any improvement on their previous pay offer and the train companies have not offered us anything new.

"In fact Network Rail have upped the ante, threatening to impose compulsory redundancies and unsafe 50% cuts to maintenance work if we did not withdraw our planned strike action.

"The train operating companies have put driver-only operations on the table along with ransacking our members' terms and conditions.

"RMT will continue to negotiate in good faith but we will not be bullied or cajoled by anyone.

"The Government need to stop their interference in this dispute so the rail employers can come to a negotiated settlement with us."

Transport for London (TfL) said while the industrial action does not involve its staff, varying degrees of disruption are expected on the District and Bakerloo Tube lines, London Overground, and the Elizabeth line, which all share some sections of track with Network Rail.

A separate train strike by the Asflef union, which represents drivers, will take place on Saturday.

Seven different companies will be impacted: Arriva Rail London; Chiltern Railways; Greater Anglia; Great Western; Hull Trains; LNER; Southeastern; and West Midlands Trains.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: "It's now clearer than ever that the RMT has no interest in engaging in constructive discussions and is hell-bent on creating further misery for passengers across the UK.

"This action is a cynically timed attempt to derail the start of the Commonwealth Games, one of the first major events the country has been able to look forward to since the pandemic.

"As well as those travelling to the Games, RMT's actions will affect people in need of urgent care, hardworking families off on long-awaited holidays and day trips, and businesses - all while a fair two-year, 8% deal hasn't even been put to their members.

"The rail industry has to modernise and be brought into the 21st century for the benefit of passengers and staff. We're extremely disappointed to see that instead of staying at the table, RMT executives have chosen to walk away once more.

"We continue to encourage RMT to do the right thing by their members and passengers alike and call off the strikes."