RMT members on a protest in January against curbs on strikes (Picture: Guy Smallman)

The RMT union has rejected pay and conditions deals put forward by bosses to workers at 13 train operating companies and Network Rail. But it took union leaders weeks to throw out what was obviously a rotten offer.

It would have meant a 5 percent pay rise for last year and 4 percent for this year. It is just one percent better for train operating companies than the previous offer that the RMT rightly rejected.

The decision to reject the deal comes after the union delayed strikes to gather feedback from branches. Workers’ participation and democracy are positives. But this feels like a delaying tactic—or an attempt to wear down workers.

The Tories have considered new anti-union laws that would make it compulsory for every new offer from bosses to go to a ballot.

One Network Rail RMT member told Socialist Worker, “We rejected the deal at an emergency branch meeting and called for more strikes. It’s basically the same deal as before, the changes made are very small and they don’t affect most people, but it’s the same pay that we rejected before.

“The company has said it wants to push ahead with ‘modernising’ plans. If they want to push ahead with that we must escalate strikes.

“We need more strikes as soon as possible. We have voted to extend the strikes by six months but there is a delay in doing anything. 

“I agree with members’ calls for strikes every Saturday—that will hit engineering works. Lots of people have great ideas for the strike but the union hasn’t gone ahead with any.”

They added that the strike must win “pay above inflation and the scrapping of modernisation plans which are essentially a different word for cuts as a cost-saving exercise”.

These attacks would mean all station ticket offices closed or “repurposed”, mandatory Sunday working and “flexible working” for all new starters. There would also be a review into on-board catering that the RMT claims would lead to the “death of the buffet carriage”.

Many RMT branches are calling for strikes to escalate. The Edinburgh branch said, “We have held several meetings asking for our members’ opinions on the latest Network Rail and RDG proposals. Members are angry. They say, ‘reject and up the action’.”

Manchester South Branch said, “We believe that these offers do nothing to offer our members job security and are simply an attack on terms and conditions, attacking everything from our members’ roles, their work-life balance to their ability to have a safe and proper break, all attached to a pay cut.” The branch called for “strikes on every Saturday for the rest of the dispute”.

Tory transport secretary, Mark Harper said this latest offer was the “best and final” deal. But he can be shifted by a new strategy of escalating strikes.

It has been over one month since all RMT members on the train operating companies and Network Rail were on strike. And since strikes began last year, the Tory government has pushed ahead with anti-union laws and demands for pay and job cuts.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said, “If we do not get improvements in the offers…we will put on further industrial action. We will be careful with the industrial action that we put forward.”

Holding back rail workers’ full power won’t win.

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