Talks between the train operators and the country’s biggest rail union are on the brink of collapse leaving commuters facing the prospect of ongoing strike disruption on the railways, industry sources have warned.

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents the train companies, has written to the RMT union calling for its leaders to put the existing offer on pay and conditions to its 20,000 members.

An offer of a salary increase of 5 per cent in 2022/23 and 4 per cent for 2023/24 in return for reforms to working practices was rejected last month by the RMT.

Industrial relations deteriorated further after the union demanded that any pay increase be “unconditional”, which rail companies have refused to agree to.

The RDG is now giving the union an ultimatum to put the offer to its wider membership or national talks will fail and negotiations will have to be undertaken at a local level, raising the prospect of ongoing walkouts for the foreseeable.

The same pay offer with certain conditions to reform working practices was accepted by the TSSA union after it was put to its members via a vote last month.

An industry source told i: “We have been negotiating for the best part of a year, and at no time was it ever discussed that an improved pay offer would come without conditions. Now the national executive committee has come back demanding an offer on pay be unconditional. That is not something we are willing to engage with.”

While a deadline has not been spelled out, industry insiders said that the RMT would need to respond soon or talks would move to an operator level.

The RMT has been approached for comment.

It had been expected that the latest offer would have been put to the wider membership when it was tabled on 10 February. Instead, the terms were rejected without a vote, prompting speculation that the RMT is being pushed by a hardcore within the union.

The news comes as Transport Secretary Mark Harper urged the RMT union to let members consider the “good” pay offer on the table.

Speaking in Northumberland where a rail line from Ashington to Newcastle is due to reopen next year, he said: “I was very pleased that the members of the TSSA, one of the rail unions, accepted the offers from both the train operating companies and Network Rail.

“That’s good to see, they are fair and reasonable offers that have been delivered. They’re the best and final offers.

“I would urge the RMT to put the offers that they’ve had to their members and let their members make the decision, and I think they’re good offers.

“And I think that their members ought to accept them and I hope the rail union RMT reconsiders their decision not even to put those offers to their members.”

By admin