Talks between the rail industry and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) will continue this week amid renewed optimism that a deal can be reached without further strikes.

However, drivers’ union Aslef was set to reject the rail operators’ initial offer, meaning a full resolution to the long-running pay dispute on the railways is likely to be some time away.

Network Rail – responsible for track, signaling and other infrastructure in Great Britain – and the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), representing rail operators, were set to resume separate talks with RMT leadership in London on Tuesday morning.

Sources close to the dispute said the RMT believed it could reach a deal without further action after a period of four weeks of strikes and other industrial action either side of Christmas.

However, the union said it was still awaiting an improved offer in writing from Network Rail and RDG – which a last-minute clause included as a precondition after scrapping a potential deal with rail operators in December.

The 8% offer was rejected outright by RMT general secretary Mick Lynch, who accused the government of “torpedoing” the deal by inserting demands around driver-only operations, an issue that has fueled years of strikes on Southern Rail and elsewhere. The coronavirus pandemic.

It is understood that commitments around driver-only operation and other controversial “modernisation” proposals will be watered down.

Ministers met rail unions last week and have since said there was a “good deal” on the table. In their final official statement released on Thursday, RMT and RDG said they were “jointly working towards a revised proposal”.

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The transport secretary, Mark Harper, said at the weekend that he believed “both the companies and the rail unions are willing to reach an agreement”, adding: “I met the trade union leaders to make sure there was a good deal. The table for rail workers.”

Harper said it was important that “we bring about a generational improvement in the maintenance operations of Network Rail and in the operating companies”, “a seven-day railway where you don’t have to rely on the goodwill of people to run a train service”. their day off.”

Network Rail’s chief negotiator, Tim Shoveler, told MPs last week that he was confident a deal could be reached soon. In an electronic referendum in December, RMT members, including key signaling staff, rejected a Network Rail offer of a 9% rise over two years, including a 5% discount on travel and guaranteed jobs backdated to January 2022.

Any final agreement with RMT is likely to pave the way for easier negotiations with Aslef. Aslef’s eight-strong national executive committee meeting began on Monday afternoon, with an 8% pay rise from train operators expected to top the agenda.

Aslef general secretary, Mick Whelan, told MPs last week that there was “zero” chance that drivers would accept the offer, which he said meant poor terms and conditions for large real-terms pay cuts.

The disputes cost the rail industry an estimated £400m in lost revenue over the 21 strike days, with several stoppages by RMT members.


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