Talks to continue on rail strike

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The Independent Online
TALKS aimed at ending industrial action by railway signal workers are expected within the next few days as management began a campaign to bypass their union.

The high-risk decision by employers aimed at winning the 'hearts and minds' of workers comes ahead of Monday's critical meeting of leaders of the RMT transport union, which will decide whether to escalate a programme of weekly 24-hour stoppages.

However, leaders of RMT and Railtrack, which runs the industry's infrastructure, are likely to resume negotiations ahead of the fourth day-long strike next Wednesday. Both sides yesterday indicated their readiness to try once more to reach a settlement.

The talks will resume at Acas, the conciliation service, in inauspicious circumstances. Both management and union are involved in propaganda offensives among the 4,600 signal workers. Railtrack said its campaign formed a response to telephone calls from signal workers' families who wanted to know 'the real story' about the package on offer.

Railtrack yesterday indicated that it might be prepared to offer lump sums of more than pounds 8,300 to signal staff who lose most from their 'restructuring' deal. The company has conceded that about 25 per cent of employees will not benefit from the proposed changes to the pay and benefits system, but the union has yet to hear what sums might be involved.

The union is seeking compensation for productivity improvements already achieved over the last six years, but management is only prepared to offer a self-financed package dependent on fresh efficiency measures.

Any fresh talks will resume in the wake of the union's annual conference which ended in Liverpool yesterday.