Letter: Signalmen were offered a fair pay package

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The Independent Online
Sir: The letter from James Marsh, signalman at Dunning in Perthshire (22 July), paints an emotive but inaccurate picture. Railtrack's offer addresses the differentials between signalling staff and other rail industry employees. For example, a signalman in a box, such as Dunning, typically earns pounds 191.60 per week for working 39 hours, comprising pounds 156.45 basic pay plus a allowances and enhancements. Under our proposals, this signalman would earn pounds 240.86 for the same week - pounds 49.26 more per week than he does today.

However, the improvements on offer go beyond a straight increase in earnings. Signalling staff, such as Mr Marsh, currently work long hours to supplement their low basic rates of pay. This leaves them very vulnerable when they eventually collect their pensions, or are on sick pay, which are based solely on an employee's basic rate of pay. This also affects an individual's credit rating, making it, for example, more difficult to obtain a mortgage. Railtrack has offered a radical restructuring to bring signalling staff into line with other railway industry employees.

If our proposals were accepted, Mr Marsh would find his basic working week reduced from 39 hours to 37 hours - substantially increasing his hourly rate of pay. Any hours worked beyond the basic 37 would be paid at overtime rates (125 per cent of standard pay rate or 130 per cent at short notice). If he were required to work a bank or public holiday, Mr Marsh would receive 2.5 times his basic salary for the hours worked. Railtrack would like the option to schedule 12-hour shifts but we have always said that their introduction would be subject to local agreement and compliance with legislation and industry standards governing the maximum length of shift.

The much-quoted lavatory attendant at Waterloo has already accepted a restructuring package appropriate for the 1990s. Railtrack wants to provide the same benefits for our signalling staff. If Mr Marsh and his colleagues are genuinely concerned about the effects of their strike on the public, we would ask them to consider what is on offer and urge their union to come back to the negotiating table. The vast majority of signalmen and women would benefit substantially.

Yours faithfully,

PAUL PRESCOTT

Director Scotland

Railtrack

Glasgow

22 July

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