Reject Network Rail deal! We can win more!

Submitted by cathy n on 2 June, 2015 - 11:35 Author: Ollie Moore

Rail union RMT has again suspended strikes on Network Rail.

Strikes, which involved both RMT and smaller rail union TSSA, were planned for 24-25 May, but both unions suspended the strikes after Network Rail made a revised pay offer.

The new deal, which reduced the length of the agreement from four years to two, offered a 1% increase in the first year, followed by 1.4% in the second, rising to 2.1% if unions agreed to various restructures.

However, consultation with reps and members in RMT returned overwhelming opposition to the new deal, and the union named new strike dates, for 4-5 and 9-11 June. Many Network Rail reps and activists were frustrated that the union's leadership suspended the strike for such meagre improvements, especially when the action had such a solid mandate.

On Monday 1 June, Network Rail made a second “revised” offer, promising a 2% increase in year one, followed by an increase pegged to the Retail Price Index (RPI) in year two. In response, RMT again suspended its planned strikes. A meeting of RMT Network Rail reps on Friday 5 June will discuss the revised offer.

Smaller rail union TSSA did not reinstate its strikes, and is balloting its members on the new deal, in a vote due to conclude on 13 June. Unite, which has a very small number of members at Network Rail, is also now consulting is members on the deal, and says it will move to a full strike ballot if the deal is rejected in a referendum that closes on 10 June.

Workers' Liberty members are working with activists from across the labour movement to promote a statement of solidarity with the dispute which can be found online here. To add your name, please email us.

Reject the deal! We can win more!

By a Network Rail worker

There's a lot of dissatisfaction at the decision to suspend the strikes. There was a feeling from many in RMT that the leadership had failed to lead by suspending the strike for such a paltry offer. I feel the leadership misread the situation and missed the chance to have a big impact by affecting Bank Holiday engineering works. The second offer is not much of an improvement. 2% is still not a substantial increase, and pegging the increase in year two to RPI is very risky. Hopefully we can reinstate action and push for a better deal, but it may now be difficult to remobilise people after strikes have been suspended twice.

The leadership's claim is that they were acting democratically and accountably by suspending the strike in order to consult members on the new offer, but there's no reason why the strike had to be suspended for that consultation to take place. The democratic mandate for strikes has already been provided by the overwhelming votes, on large turnouts, to reject the first offer and then to strike. 

Part of the problem is that we don't have a specific demand that we're fighting for. There's a problem with demanding a “substantial increase in the rates of pay”, rather than a specific flat-rate increase, as it's vague and leaves a lot open to interpretation. If we had a specific demand, we'd know that any improved offer would have to come up to that for us to consider suspending strikes. There are problems and limitations with making specific demands too, but it's an approach that needs to be considered.

Branches should appeal the decision to suspend the strikes at the RMT's upcoming AGM. The dissatisfaction needs to be channelled into union structures and we need a productive debate about how disputes are conducted.

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