Members of the RMT union at Network Rail have voted to end their strike action after receiving a new offer on pay and conditions.
Union members at the national infrastructure firm voted 76% to 24% in favour of accepting the deal, bringing an end to eight months of strikes. The offer includes an improved pay rise of up to 14%, assurances on redundancies, and discounted leisure travel. It also removes a condition forcing the union to accept the company’s “modernising maintenance” agenda.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said the “inspiring solidarity” of its members had secured the new deal to end the dispute, but warned that disruption on the railways was not over.
Network Rail is responsible for the maintenance and operation of the country’s railway tracks, signals, bridges and tunnels, as well as 20 key stations. Around 21,000 of its 42,000-strong workforce are members of the RMT and since last July their walkouts have caused massive disruption, leading to the closure of up to half of all lines on strike days.
The settlement means that signallers and other vital workers will cease strike action, allowing the railways to operate as normal. However, the deal does not mean a complete end to strikes and RMT action elsewhere is still likely to cause major disruption for some travellers.
Commenting on the Network Rail deal, Lynch highlighted that the RMT remains in dispute with 14 English train operating companies and their subsidiaries. He said: “Our dispute with the train operating companies remains firmly on and our members’ recent highly effective strike action across the 14 train companies has shown their determination to secure a better deal.
“If the government now allows the train companies to make the right offer, we can then put that to our members but until then the strike action scheduled for 30 March 30 and 1 April will take place. The ball is in the government’s court.”
Around 20,000 RMT members are employed at the 14 train companies and the union’s most recent strike action, which did not include Network Rail workers, still led to around half of all rail services being cancelled. Across England services began later and finished earlier, although some areas were worse hit than others.
Although the union has reached settlements with operators in Scotland and Wales, action at other operators, including Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry and LNER means that cross-border services are still under threat, including the east and west coast main lines.
The next RMT strikes are scheduled for 31 March and 1 April unless there is progress towards a resolution. Previously, the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents the employers, said its latest offer to the RMT was its “best and final” and a lack of movement from the union could see it abandon negotiations. If that were to happen, the union would have to negotiate with each operator separately.
The dispute between Aslef, which represents around 12,000 train drivers, and employers is also still ongoing. The union and RDG have both said that there is no resolution in sight but Aslef has not announced any further strike dates since its last walkout in February.