Travel chaos for rail passengers looms as union pay row threatens first national rail strike in over 20 years

The RMT is recommending Network Rail employees reject current proposals, which could see rail strikes up and down the country ahead of the general election

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The Independent Online

Rail passengers face havoc in the lead up to the general election as union bosses urge their 17,000 Network Rail members to reject the latest pay offer from the company, which could result in the first national rail strike in more than 20 years.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union is calling on its members to vote down a four-year pay deal proposed by the state-funded Network Rail.

The union claims that the proposed zero per cent increase in wages for 2015 represents a real-term pay cut, and said it is extremely concerned over the “no compulsory redundancy” commitment from National Rail that only extends to the end of this year, raising the threat of job losses in 2016.

In addition, the union’s demands for free travel for Network Rail’s employees has failed to be met.

The referendum will close on 24 March and RMT stated that if its members reject the offer, the RMT will automatically be placed in dispute with Network Rail and the workforce will then be balloted for industrial action.

Should industrial action go ahead, it will mark the first national rail strike since 1994, and could cause havoc on the railways for passengers up and down the country as early as April, according to The Times.

RMT general secretary Mike Cash said: “As far as we are concerned [a zero per cent pay rise] is a pay cut as it means that our members’ pay will not keep up with the cost of living.

“The travel offer we have received is nothing more than a card that can be purchased by any member of the travelling public, falling well short of our demand of free travel for all. In addition, we are extremely concerned that the ‘No Compulsory Redundancy’ commitment only applies to the first year of the four year deal.

“RMT is in no doubt that this leaves operations and maintenance members extremely vulnerable [and] is strongly recommending members vote NO to reject this offer – a vote that would automatically place us in dispute and which would trigger a full, national industrial action ballot.”

A Network Rail spokesman said: “Network Rail is funded in five-year chunks running to 2019. We have offered the RMT a four-year wage deal for our employees that reflects this.

“It is a good and fair offer linked to inflation, gives our people certainty and keeps their pay highly competitive.”