Bristol RMT on strike. Photo: Bristol Socialist Party
Bristol RMT on strike. Photo: Bristol Socialist Party

West Midlands RMT member

The Rail Delivery Group, representing Train Operating Company (TOC) bosses, and rail union RMT have published a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ (MOU) which aims to provide a breakthrough in our long-running national dispute of nearly 18 months, which has seen determined and resilient action by our members.

The massive U-turn over ticket office closures, forced on the Tories by a campaign led by the rail unions with huge public support, represents a defeat for the TOCs and has lifted rail workers.

However, while it is obviously welcome that the mass ticket office closures and ‘driver only operated’ trains have been taken off the table, the offer still falls far short of RMT members’ aspirations and should be rejected.

It proposes a 5% pay rise or £1,750, whichever is greater, backdated to April 2022, and negotiations on 2023 pay which would include “workforce reforms” – ie attacks on terms and conditions. In other words, we would have to pay for 2023’s deal from our own pockets. This is unacceptable.

To catch up with inflation since 2022 we need 10-15%, so what is currently on offer is effectively a pay cut.

They propose a ‘no compulsory redundancy’ agreement until the end of 2024. However, if we decide not to go ahead with selling off our terms and conditions next year they have the right to unilaterally withdraw the no compulsory redundancy agreement.

In the main, they are offering us the same deal that our leadership correctly rejected earlier in the year. The main difference now is that Christmas is just around the corner, and they hope we will vote to accept because the substantial amount of back pay would be welcome this time of year.

The RMT’s ballot comes with no recommendation from the union’s National Executive Committee. What is particularly concerning is that if the MOU is accepted, it will break the united front of the union negotiating collectively over the 14 TOCs, instead it will be company by company. This will inevitably weaken our position.

Very little time

They want us to vote from Friday 10 November, despite the memorandum only being circulated on Wednesday 8 November! The vote runs till 30 November. This leaves very little time for members to digest the offer, meet and discuss it with colleagues.

Mass meetings should have been organised involving members and reps at all levels before it was decided to put this offer out to referendum.

What makes it worse is that we delivered a massive ‘yes’ vote in the latest reballot, which shows that most members are prepared to fight for a just settlement. If this offer is accepted, that ballot can now go in the bin instead of organising a campaign of industrial action.

We haven’t finished the job yet, but we need a fighting strategy that can convince our members that it’s possible to win more.

There is no word about an offer for drivers’ union Aslef at this stage. RMT and Aslef both need to stay in the fight and find common ground, so that all rail workers can win a proper, no-strings, cost-of-living pay rise and protect our terms and conditions.

A joint meeting of RMT and Aslef national executive committees to discuss a strategy of coordinated action, in order to put maximum pressure on the weak and divided Tories, would be a significant step forward.