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Militant rail unions told to take ‘final’ pay deal and end strike chaos

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Even before becoming Rail Minister, I was a passionate advocate for our railways.
The after effects of Covid have left our rail network in a financially perilous place.
Whether it’s due to hybrid working or just being fed up with ongoing industrial action, passengers aren’t returning in the same numbers.
The industry needs fundamental reform – to deliver better services, to earn more income, and to get passengers back on board.
Since we were appointed in October, the Transport Secretary and I have been trying to bring the negotiating parties together and facilitate productive discussions. We want to resolve these industrial disputes.
We’re making some progress, with discussions with the RMT being the most developed.
There’s a generous offer on the table too – a 5% + 4% pay rise over two years, with last year’s increase being paid in a lump sum – an offer which also disproportionately benefits the lowest paid.
Two unions, the TSSA and Unite, have already accepted this offer for their Network Rail members.
This is the best and final offer possible. There just isn’t the public money available for inflation busting pay rises.
That would only be possible if we raised your taxes. This isn’t justified when, through modernisation and reform, the railway industry could fund those pay rises itself.
Modernisation will mean new technology can speed up driver training and make working conditions on the track safer. By formalising Sunday working, we can take advantage of the rise in weekend leisure travel that we’ve seen after Covid. Staff will benefit from more flexible working patterns and multiskilled roles.
These changes are in line with many sectors across the country and they’re essential for any 21st century railway.
No one wins by prolonging this dispute, particularly rail workers.
As January credit card bills land, some striking workers have lost thousands of pounds in lost pay on strike days and are missing out on the 5% back-dated pay.
In the meantime, the railway itself risks withering on the vine, unable to make the changes it needs to grow and losing the faith of a generation of rail passengers.
My message to the RMT is clear: the Government has done our bit – we’ve met with you, listened to you and facilitated a best and final offer on pay and reform for you.
The future of the rail network is on the line. Put the latest offers to your members, encourage them to accept, and help us build the modern sustainable railway Britain deserves.
Huw Merriman is the Rail Minister

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