After an acrimonious four-hour meeting yesterday, the executive of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union encountered what was described as a 'constitutional problem' and did not accept or reject British Rail's proposals.
One possibility was that the conciliation service Acas would be brought in to solve the dispute over job security, an RMT spokesman said. The union would consider its position further today, he said.
Earlier yesterday, the Government intervened in the dispute, warning the rail union that the BR management had come to the end of the negotiating line.
Urging the RMT against a third 24-hour strike, John MacGregor, the Secretary of State for Transport, said: 'I don't think they can go further. I don't think it would be right to do so.'
His comments came before last night's critical meeting of the RMT executive, which was considering a peace formula issued by British Rail on Tuesday. In the document, management confirmed that it did not foresee the need for compulsory redundancies during the next couple of years.
It also assured the union that there were no plans for a major extension of the use of contractors for track maintenance.