17,000 Network Rail workers balloting for industrial action

Two separate disputes involve maintenance and signalling staff

MORE THAN 17,000 RMT members at Network Rail are being balloted for industrial action in two separate disputes involving maintenance and signalling and other operational staff.

Ballot papers are being sent to more than 12,000 infrastructure workers after they rejected an “unacceptable” offer from the company on the harmonisation of terms and conditions by a landslide margin of more than 100 to one.

 

And some 5,000 signallers and other key operational staff are being balloted over pay and conditions after rejecting a “cynical” offer of an additional 0.1 per cent on the first year of a two-year deal. Both ballots conclude on May 22.

 

The harmonisation dispute follows months of fruitless talks aimed at achieving a single set of terms and conditions for maintenance staff, many of whom transferred into Network Rail from the private sector

 

“The company has been using the talks to try to drive down our members’ conditions, and they can hardly be surprised that their pathetic offer was thrown out by a margin of more than 100 to one,” RMT general secretary Bob Crow said today.

 

“The company is now saying that our members can stay on their existing terms, but they are already moving to sneak inferior conditions in through the back door with a list of issues it now wants to ‘discuss’ separately.

 

“We know that means an attack on everyone’s terms and conditions, not least because the company is looking to cut its maintenance budget by up to 12 per cent year on year.”

 

The ballot of signalling and other operational staff follows the rejection of a pay-and-conditions offer that holds the prospect of a real-terms cut in living standards.

 

“We told the company quite clearly that the second-year element of their pay offer to operational staff, of RPI plus 0.5 per cent, would not protect our members against costs that are rising way ahead of the official inflation rate,” Bob Crow said.

 

“Their cynical response was to offer another tenth of one per cent on the first year element on condition that we do not ballot, when they knew perfectly well that it would not address our concerns.

 

“We have also told the company that we want a return to a common anniversary date for all operational and maintenance and infrastructure workers,” Bob Crow said.

 

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Notes to editors:

The 5,000 signallers and operational staff are in dispute over pay. Network Rail’s original offer, of 4.8 per cent this year and RPI plus 0.5 per cent in 2009, was rejected by RMT members by a margin of two to one. The company had been informed that they year one element was acceptable but that the year 2 element was not.

 

The company’s offer of an extra 0.1 per cent in year one, bringing it to 4.9 per cent but conditional on the union not balloting for industrial action, would leave the second-year element unchanged.

 

The maintenance dispute follows the failure of months of talks to produce a serious offer on the harmonisation of terms and conditions for 12,000 infrastructure workers, many of whom have transferred into NR from former contractors.

 

Some 6,641 RMT members voted to reject the proposals with just 56 voting to accept, and the union had already signalled that rejection would lead to a ballot for industrial action if acceptable proposals are not forthcoming at last-ditch talks which took place last month.

 

RMT’s aspirations for Network Rail harmonisation include:

 

Working week

  • 35 hour week without loss of pay
  • Move towards a 34 hour week and where possible a maximum four-day rostered week over a 13 week cycle

Annual Leave

  • 28 days on entry plus Bank Holidays
  • 30 days after ten years’ service plus bank holidays
  • No compulsory working on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day
  • Agreed enhancements for all the above working 

Sick Pay

  • 39 weeks’ full pay

 

Pay

  • One grading system
  • One set of job descriptions
  • Highest possible basic rates with allowances but recognising allowances can be reduced to increase the basic pay
  • 100 per cent pensionable pay