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Rail boss threatens to go straight to staff and cut union barons out of pay talks in bid to push through deal
- Andrew Haines, Network Rail boss, admits move could further escalate tensions
- But he said that ‘something will have to give’ if talks with RMT remain deadlocked
- Union leaders have so far refused to put a formal pay rise offer of at least 3 per cent to their members
A rail boss yesterday threatened to cut union barons out of pay talks and go straight to staff in a bid to push through a deal.
Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, made the explosive warning after talks with the RMT broke down.
He admitted the move could further escalate tensions but said ‘something will have to give’ if talks remain deadlocked.
Leaders of the hard-Left union have so far refused to put a formal pay rise offer of at least 3 per cent – the same as NHS staff were given last year – to their members.
Informally, the union’s leaders have been told the rise can be even more if they accept further modernisation of working practices.
It comes as talks between RMT and Network Rail negotiators stalled yesterday, with the union saying tomorrow’s third 24-hour strike this week would go ahead. RMT boss Mick Lynch is pictured above
Mr Haines said he believes the 20,000 or so RMT workers for Network Rail would likely clinch the deal if given the opportunity.
He told the Daily Mail that the state-owned company, responsible for signalling and track maintenance, would have to consider a company referendum if the talks remain deadlocked. It is hoped the move would heap pressure on the RMT to accept a deal if a majority of workers voted for it.
He said: ‘At the moment we’ve not been able to tell our workforce what’s on offer because we’re caught in a relationship with the RMT and I think we have to unlock ourselves from that, bluntly, and that’s the conversation we’re having. We don’t want to do it [cut the RMT out], because it would be further escalation, but if we cannot stop this dragging on and on, something will have to give.’
It comes as talks between RMT and Network Rail negotiators stalled yesterday, with the union saying tomorrow’s third 24-hour strike this week would go ahead.
Leaders of the hard-Left union have so far refused to put a formal pay rise offer of at least 3 per cent – the same as NHS staff were given last year – to their members. Informally, the union’s leaders have been told the rise can be even more if they accept further modernisation of working practices
RMT boss Mick Lynch said: ‘Our members are leading the way in standing up for all working people trying to get a pay rise and some job security. What we cannot accept is thousands of railway workers being thrown on the scrapheap after being praised as heroes during Covid.’
Sources close to the negotiations said Network Rail and the RMT began getting into the ‘nitty gritty’ of how working practices could be modernised yesterday afternoon in a sign a deal could yet be reached.
One source said the RMT has rowed back several times after initially suggesting it could agree to Network Rail’s offer.
The source explained: ‘We had a document that we had more or less agreed on at 8pm on Sunday. But by 8.30pm they had walked out again because we clarified something in the document and they said ‘no, no, no we’re not having this, we’re going’.
‘Then more or less the same thing happened on Monday.’
Network Rail’s chief negotiator, Tim Shoveller, yesterday dismissed a 7.1 per cent pay deal struck between the TSSA union and Merseyrail.
Asked if the quango would have to offer the same to the RMT, he told the BBC: ‘I think that’s very unlikely.’ Meanwhile rail firms have been told to curb overtime to prevent striking workers making up lost wages.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has asked rail companies to limit the amount of overtime offered to staff taking industrial action.
A Whitehall source said that in previous disputes, workers were typically able to take advantage of generous overtime as firms raced to restore services.
It came as the Government vowed to press ahead with laws to allow employers to use agency staff to break strikes.