'Groundbreaking' pay deal for rail workers

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The Independent Online

A "groundbreaking" pay deal has been agreed for thousands of Network Rail workers.

It includes a 10% rise over two years, a £500 lump sum for those working on projects linked to next year's Olympics and an agreement which unions said means that no-one can be dismissed during the Games.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said the package of pay and rewards recognised the important role transport workers will play during the event in London, which opens at the end of July 2012.

Signallers, engineers, customer service staff and other NR employees will receive a 5.2% pay rise this year, backdated to January, and a further rise of RPI inflation plus 0.5% from next January, which the RMT said totalled more than 10%.

In addition, NR employees working on contracts affecting the Olympic Games will receive an additional £500.

The RMT said there had also been an agreement on a disputes procedure for the period of the Olympics which meant no union member can be dismissed, although recognising their right to withdraw their labour.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: "This is a groundbreaking offer that gives Network Rail staff more than 10% on the basic between now and next year and which also puts a further £500 in their pockets for working shifts during the Olympics.

"The package recognises the important role that transport workers will be expected to play during the Games and rewards them financially while protecting their union rights at the same time.

"At this time of austerity, we think that £500 extra payments and 10% on the basic represents a good deal and proves that strong union organisation can deliver for the members."

Gerry Doherty, leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, which is also covered by the deal, said: "This agreement will bring more pressure on the Mayor of London to improve his below-inflation pay offer to Tube staff this year and to secure a deal which rewards staff for their extra efforts during the Olympics next summer.

"At present he seems more interested in political posturing as part of his re-election campaign than sitting down with the unions and reaching a sensible agreement similar to the one Network Rail have just agreed."

Unions have rejected a five year pay offer for Tube workers, which includes a 4% wage rise this year and above-inflation increases in future years.

The NR deal also includes an improvement in travel subsidies and an Olympic premium payment of £3.50 an hour for staff whose duties are affected beyond the normal requirements of their job during the Games.

David Higgins, Network Rail chief executive, said: "This is great news for the millions of people who will use the trains to enjoy the Olympics. Travellers get certainty that their journeys won't be disrupted by industrial action during the games and our people get a fair deal linked to inflation and recognition of the vital role they will play in making this once-in-a-lifetime event a success."