By Sam Ord
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Don’t let Network Rail deal signal a path towards retreat

The rail strikes began the wave of revolt. The proposed deal shouldn't point the way towards a retreat
Rail deal discussion: workers in winter clothing on a picket line with red and green RMT union flags.

RMT union members, who have stood firm, now have to discuss rail deal offers (Picture: Guy Smallman)

RMT union leaders have suspended Network Rail strikes planned for Wednesday and Thursday of next week and put a terrible offer out to ballot. 

Network Rail employs signallers and track maintenance workers. If it’s taken out of the strikes then it will make it easier for other rail bosses to organise scabbing on strike days.

The proposed deal would see workers’ pay go up by £1,750 or 5 percent for the period 1 January to 30 September 2022—whatever rate is higher. There would then be an additional 4 percent increase covering 1 October 2022 to 31 December 2023.

The RMT says that for most of the workers affected it means a 10.3 percent rise in basic earnings over two years. With inflation running at 13.4 percent for a single year this is a huge real terms pay cut and should be rejected.

But a Network Rail RMT member told Socialist Worker, “Actually I think it’s a 9.2 percent increase, made up of 5 percent or an increase of £1,750 for nine months of 2022 then 4 percent on top for three months of 2022 and the rest of 2023.

“That 1.1 percent difference—9.2 percent versus 10.3 percent—is from the extra four months of the increase. So it’s more like a bonus.

“The rail deal is confusing on purpose I think to make people think we’re getting a double-digit pay rise. But inflation is likely to be over 20 percent for both of those years  taken together.”

Bosses also want workers to accept a raft of attacks to jobs disguised as “Modernising Maintenance”. This could mean 30 percent more nights and weekend working and the removal of 1,950 front-line posts.

Network Rail bosses say they will not make any compulsory redundancies, but their guarantee is only until 2025.

The RMT leaders don’t dare to support the deal, giving no recommendation in the ballot that runs until 20 March.

But they do brand it as “improved”. The very marginal difference is that back pay will increase from January 2023 to October 2022. The rail deal also includes 75 percent discounted leisure travel.

RMT leaders have not called for branch meetings to debate the deal. 

The rail strikes began the recent wave of pay strikes almost nine months ago. Accepting this deal would send a very dangerous message. It is that the best workers can get is well short of inflation and they must accept pay cuts.

And such a retreat is unnecessary. There is no sign of the strikes falling apart, and next week is set to be the biggest day of united action so far with over half a million on strike.

But as well as throwing out this deal, workers must debate how to shift strategy from the on-off strikes since last summer.

  • Strikes by RMT members at 14 train operating companies are still scheduled for Thursday and Saturday of next week, and then 30 March and 1 April. London Underground workers in the RMT and Aslef unions are set to strike on Wednesday of next week.

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