|Volume 53 Number 9, March 25, 2023
Rail workers have voted to accept the latest offer from Network Rail in their 9-month dispute with the railway infrastructure operator. The members of RMT, who include signallers and track maintenance workers, voted by 76% to 24% in favour of acceptance on a turnout of 90%. Those who work for 14 private train operating companies across the country are still in dispute and are due to walk out again on strike on March 30 and April 1.
According to the union, key features of the offer include:
The union explained that the new offer, which was also improved with the new money, was made following the most recent strike action in January and the threat of more action. The previous offer had been rejected on a vote of 64%. Following the new vote, the National Executive announced the end of the dispute with Network Rail.
While the union is "not pretending this is an overwhelming victory," said RMT general secretary Mike Lynch, "we do accept our members' verdict."
"Strike action and the inspiring solidarity and determination of members has secured new money and a new offer which has been clearly accepted by our members and that dispute is now over," he said.
Nevertheless, it is clear that negotiation in the strike action represents only a ceasefire in the workers' actions as the dignity of the workers' labour is still up for question, while the employers' offensive continues. Network Rail has plainly stated that it will go ahead with its so-called modernisation and maintenance reforms, which workers oppose. Further, the dispute with the train operating companies is ongoing and the questions of driver-only operated trains and the removal of ticket offices still have not been resolved.
The fact remains that the pay deal does not even meet inflation. The working class as a whole cannot accept below-inflation deals, and living standards cannot be allowed to drop as this too is against the dignity of all workers. Employers and the government cannot demand that workers, nurses, doctors, teachers, pensioners, and society at large accept cuts - cuts to pay, cuts to working conditions, cuts to living standards and services. All of this at a time when the pay the rich schemes, financing war production, and, yet again, bank bailouts are thrust into people's faces.
Speaking in their own name, it is workers who said "Enough is Enough", with the spirit that there must be change. It is the workers who decided to strike, casting huge votes in favour of action. It is also the workers who decided when to hold their fire until another day. Much is being learned in their actions, through which workers are developing their own independent outlook. Rail workers are continuing their struggle to defend their interests, and are well aware that mammoth battles still lie ahead.
(Sources: RMT, news agencies)