Rail workers employed by 13 train operating companies have been handed another insulting offer by bosses. It’s their second offer since they began striking sporadically in June last year.
The proposal, put forward by the employers’ Rail Delivery Group to the RMT union, consists of a 5 percent pay rise or £1,750 increase for last year and 4 percent for this year. It is just one percent better than the previous offer that the RMT rightly rejected.
It shouldn’t have taken union leaders to think for more than five minutes before they chucked out the offer. Not only is the deal far below inflation, but it also comes with a raft of attacks.
All station ticket offices will close or be “repurposed”, Sunday working will become mandatory and there will be a two-tier pay structure for some new entrants and “flexible working” for all of them. The explicit requirement to expand driver-only operation is gone. However, the plans say individual companies could separately go on to propose changes to on-board staff roles.
The period of no compulsory redundancies has been extended, but that’s because firms think they can ram through enough “voluntary” job cuts. There will be worse holidays and worse sick pay.
Train companies have dropped their demand to make drivers operate carriage doors rather than a guard. An offer hasn’t been made for Network Rail workers despite negotiations continuing.
Many workers are calling for the RMT leaders to reject the offer, not put it to a ballot. A vote would delay still further calling urgently-needed strikes. But the RMT leaders say they will “consider the detail” and have “made no decisions”.
Rail workers must push to reject this deal and prepare to organise a reject vote if put to a ballot. But this must be combined with a call to escalate strikes.
On Wednesday last week, rail minister Huw Merriman conceded that the strikes have cost the economy more than settling the disputes months ago would have. The walkouts have cost Britain more than £1 billion, he told a committee of MPs.
But the government and the companies want to break the union in order to send a message to other workers and to clear the way for massive changes on the rail.
Merriman said it was necessary to look at the “overall impact on the public sector pay deals that are going across, and we also have to look on the ability for the reforms that don’t often get talked about.” Across December and January, rail workers walked out for four 48-hour periods. It was a great show of workers’ strength and their determination to carry their fight to victory.
But the most recent paltry offer shows that the action wasn’t enough. Bosses hope that even rubbish offers mean strikes are called off and gradually workers give up or cross picket lines.
There have been 16 days of strike action since June involving RMT members working at both train companies and Network Rail, with Network Rail members additionally striking in a separate dispute between Christmas Eve and 27 December. But that’s over a seven-month period.
Escalating to all-out strikes, and linking with other unions when possible, is the way to win. The present strategy of stop-start strikes with long gaps in between gives bosses the ability to recover.
Train drivers in the RMT are due to join members of the main drivers’ union, Aslef, in strikes on 1 and 3 February. But this is only a very small section of RMT members. They should all have been out on 1 February alongside hundreds of thousands of other workers.
On Tuesday, the Aslef train drivers union rejected an offer from train companies, which included a 4 percent pay rise for two years in a row. Aslef said the proposal was “not and could not ever be acceptable”, but its general secretary Mick Whelan said the union was open to further talks.
Hard-hitting strikes can put the rail bosses and the Tories on the back foot.Original post