Downing Street has urged the RMT rail union to “think again” about the threat of strike action in the run-up to Christmas, insisting that a two-year pay deal proposed by employers is “the right offer” for workers.
The Rail Delivery Group’s offer – worth 4 per cent both this year and next – was immediately rejected as “unacceptable” on Sunday by the union, which said it did not meet its demand for a “decent” pay rise at a time when inflation is running at an annual 11 per cent.
The continued stand-off sets the scene for transport chaos over the festive period, with RMT members set to walk out on 13-14 and 16-17 December and an overtime ban over Christmas.
Prime minister Rishi Sunak’s official spokesperson said it was “a decision for the RMT” whether to put the improved pay offer to its members in a ballot.
But he added: “We do think this is the right offer… We are confident it represents a good offer for their membership that provides them with a significant uplift in pay and certainty that they will get an further uplift the following year.”
The offer was a “significant improvement” on the RDG’s previous one-year 3 per cent proposal, and would backdate the pay rise to the start of the 2022/23 financial year, said the spokesperson.
He added: “We continue to urge the RMT to think again. There is still time.”
Accepting the offer would mean rail staff could “go into Christmas having the knowledge that they will receive an improved backdated pay rise early in the new year”, he said.
The RDG offer includes a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies before April 2024.
But RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said on Sunday that it does not meet demands for “long-term job security, a decent pay rise and protecting working conditions”.
“If this plan was implemented, it would not only mean the loss of thousands of jobs but the use of unsafe practices such as driver-only operation and would leave our railways chronically understaffed,” he said.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said “both sides need to compromise” in the dispute, which has seen ministers refuse to get involved in talks between empoyers and unions.
“I’m not going to start… saying one side’s right, one side’s wrong,” Sir Keir told BBC1’s Breakfast.
“What I do know is if you have a Labour government, we would get people round the table and resolve these issues.
“And I’m not just saying that – you can see that has happened in Wales, that has happened in Scotland.
“Why hasn’t it happened elsewhere? Answer: because the government is sitting on its hands. Get on with it.”