Rail strike to start tonight after talks collapse

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The Independent Online
ANOTHER 24-hour rail strike begins at midnight tonight and signal workers' leaders warned of a further stoppage a week later after talks broke down early today.

Negotiations collapsed at 1.30 this morning after six hours of talks between the RMT transport union and Railtrack at the London offices of the conciliation service Acas.

Vernon Hince, the chief union negotiator, emerged from the discussions declaring that they were no further forward than when the session began yesterday evening. He said management had offered a 'restructuring package' in return for future productivity improvements, but refused to concede any 'upfront' payments for increased efficiency already achieved.

The management, however, said it was offering between 16 and 26 per cent rises on pensionable pay. Union negotiators retorted that, while basic rates would be increased, allowances and overtime payments would be abolished and total earnings would not rise. Mr Hince said that the state-owned company, which runs the railway infrastructure, had not addressed the union's fundamental claim.

David Armstrong, Railtrack's human resources director, said the package on offer was worth pounds 4.3m and would improve total earnings for the vast majority of staff. 'We are bitterly disappointed. We have made a proposal to RMT and sadly they have rejected it,' he said.

But Mr Hince said tomorrow's strike was 'certainly still on' and that the union was 'disgusted' with the management's attitude. 'This offer is an insult,' he said. The company was prepared to reward future productivity, but not past efficiency. 'They have been playing us along for 14 days. Now there is no offer worth speaking about. We will recommend that there is future action.'

There were no plans for further talks to achieve a settlement.

Management negotiators arrived 90 minutes late for the meeting at Acas following a board meeting at Railtrack where the offer to the union was finalised.