The RMT union has disclosed that it will initiate the filing of a claim to raise the pay of its members who are working at Network Rail. It raises the possibility of a tense standoff that could end in more disruption for the passengers in Britain.
The Department for Transport (DfT) controls Network Rail. The relationship between the union and the DfT are currently at an all-time low after Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, suggested that the pay raise for workers should be fastened to the lower consumer price index (CPI), instead of the current retail price index (RPI), to maintain the fares low for the passengers.
Starting January, the rail fares will grow by 3.2 percent. It is anticipated to cause widespread outrage among the passengers who have experienced months of cancellations, overcrowding, and disruptions that were caused by the botched May timetable.
A spokesperson from the RMT stated: “RMT is in the process of drawing up our claim which will, of course, seek to protect and enhance our member’s standards of living and their working conditions.”
The union is assumed to be aiming to push for a pay increase for the maintenance and operations workers of Network Rail by above 3.2 percent, the current level of the RPI. Next month, it is scheduled to lodge its claim for higher pay. It will come months before its current pay agreement would expire at the end of the year.
Earlier in August, Grayling suggested that the fares for passengers should be in line with the CPI, however, he that this was only possible once the unions and train operators will be willing to apply the same index to calculate their pay.
In a letter that was addressed to the main unions – the Aslef, RMT, TSSA, and Unite – he said that reducing the levels of fare rises was only possible once the “costs in the industry rise no faster than ticket prices.”
He stated: “I am not opposed to above-inflation pay increases being individually negotiated between trade unions and employers in the industry where there are productivity or similar improvements that create the financial headroom for such deals.”
He added: “But it is difficult to justify using a different measure of inflation in the rail industry to the one that is widely used across services like the NHS.”
The discussions over pay increased the possibility of more strikes once the talks fail. It is understood that the DfT could have a say in the discussions.
A Network Rail spokesperson stated: “Network Rail has not yet received any pay claims from our trade unions in relation to operation and maintenance employees, and negotiations are not expected to commence until the end of October. Therefore any talk of industrial action at this stage is misleading.”
The discussion regarding pay will be one of the first issues that Andrew Haines, the new chief executive of Network Rail, may have to contend with. Previously, Haines served as the chief executive of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). He joined Network Rail during the summer to take the place of Mark Carne.
Carne will still be working for Network Rail throughout the autumn so that he could oversee its current control period.