Rail bosses could walk away from talks aimed at ending the ongoing strikes, according to a leaked letter from the head of the Rail Delivery Group (RDG).
Ahead of more industrial action by the RMT union on 16 March, the letter from Steve Montgomery warns that if the RMT doesn’t accept the latest pay and conditions offer from employers the two sides will have reached “an impasse”.
If the RDG walks away from negotiations with the union it raises the prospect of months more strikes as the union has to negotiate with each of the 14 train operators individually.
The union rejected the latest offer from the RDG in February, saying that the deal “did not meet the needs of members on pay, job security or working conditions”. It accused the government of “shackling” the train operating companies by insisting on changes to working practices. In respone, the RDG accused the union of backtracking over modernisation plans.
The RMT and the RDG, which represents Britain’s train operating companies, have been locked in a dispute over pay and conditions since last June, with the union staging a series of strikes which have crippled rail services. Prior to February’s offer, Montgomery had said he was hopeful of a resolution but the union said that after widespread consultation with its members it could not accept the deal.
Now, in a letter seen by the Daily Mail, Montgomery has warned that refusal to reconsider the deal could bring negotiations to a halt. In the letter to RMT general secretary Mick Lynch, he pointed out that the smaller TSSA union had accepted a deal from the RDG, adding: “In the event that your executive committee is not willing to do this then I regretfully believe we have reached an impasse on progressing our industry level discussions.”
The letter points out that such an outcome would force the RMT to talk to each of the operators involved separately if it wants to reconvene talks. Such action could delay any agreement and lead to months of further strikes.
The RDG has accused the RMT of reneging on its previous position of accepting modernisation and said there was no way the rail network could continue to operate without changes.
A spokesperson previously commented: “The RMT leadership’s decision not to put the deal out to a referendum means that thousands of their lowest paid members have been denied a chance to have a say on an offer which would give them a pay increase of over 13%.
“The RMT agreed from the outset that the industry needed modernisation and understood that was how a pay rise could be funded. After many months of extensive talks and meeting key demands on DOO (driver only operation), pay and job security, the leadership have now reneged on that position and say they do not accept any reforms.
“They know that no employer who has lost 20% of its revenue could accept those terms. The vital changes will not go away because the RMT refuses to engage with them. ”
The RMT’s 40,000 members are due to strike on 16 March 18 and 30 March and 1 April.
The RMT has been approached for comment.