The main rail union has rejected a last-ditch offer from train operators.
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), representing the 14 train operating companies (TOCs) in dispute with the RMT, tabled an offer of a 4 per cent pay rise of both 2022 and 2023.
The proposal also promises there would be no compulsory redundancies before April 2024.
When announcing the pay offer, a spokesperson for the RDG said: “This is a fair and affordable offer in challenging times, providing a significant uplift in salary for staff. If approved by the RMT, implementation could be fast-tracked to ensure staff go into Christmas secure in the knowledge that they will receive this enhanced pay award early in the new year alongside a guarantee of job security until April 2024.”
But a deal would be contingent on reforms including ticket office closures and an increase in drivers controlling the doors on trains (known as DOO).
Both these policies are anathema to the union, and the RMT’s executive committee rejected the offer out of hand.
The union’s general secretary, Mick Lynch, said: “We have rejected this offer as it does not meet any of our criteria for securing a settlement on long-term job security, a decent pay rise and protecting working conditions.
“The RDG and DfT who sets their mandate, both knew this offer would not be acceptable to RMT members.
“If this plan was implemented, it would not only mean the loss of thousands of jobs but the use of unsafe practices such as DOO and would leave our railways chronically understaffed.”
The RMT said it is “demanding an urgent meeting with the RDG tomorrow morning with a view to securing a negotiated settlement on job security, working conditions and pay”.
But unless rail firms can find a formula that is acceptable to both the union and the government, which will finance a deal, the most sustained wave of strikes since 1989 will wreck travel plans on either side of Christmas.
The RMT has called a 48-hour stoppage starting on Tuesday 13 December. A further 48-hour strike will commence on Friday 16 December. The pattern will be repeated on 3 and 6 January 2023.
Between the two bouts of industrial action, the RMT will ban members from working overtime.
The RDG spokesperson warned a Christmas strike “will upset the travel plans of millions and cause real hardship for businesses which depend on Christmas custom”.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, called the rejection of the pay offer “absolutely devastating news for hospitality”.
“We urge all sides to continue talking to secure a last-ditch resolution,” she tweeted.
The loss to business caused by the proposed stoppage has been estimated at £1.7bn – which would also mean the Treasury being deprived of hundreds of millions of pounds in VAT.
Train drivers, represented by the Aslef union, are also in dispute with 11 train operators.
The new transport secretary, Mark Harper, has said solving the rail disputes is his top priority.