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National level talks between the Rail Delivery Group and the RMT appear to be on the brink of failure, as another train strike looms next Thursday.
Now, the RDG, which represents train companies, has written to the union saying that if the latest offer is not put to union members in a vote, national level talks may not resume.
It says talks would have to be opened between the RMT and each individual train company involved.
The RMT has been contacted for comment.
The national rail dispute has been at an impasse since the RMT’s national executive committee rejected “best and final” offers from rail bosses.
The RDG will wait for the RMT’s response before deciding how to proceed.
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) and the RMT – the largest rail union – have been negotiating for months.
Unions have been calling for an unconditional pay offer during talks with the RDG and Network Rail.
The RMT has previously said it is “focused on coming to a negotiated settlement”, and that it had carried out an “in-depth consultation” before the decision to reject was made. As well as an unconditional pay offer, it called for “a job security agreement and no detrimental changes being imposed on members’ terms, conditions and working practices”.
The government and industry have said all along that any pay increase must be on condition of “reforms”.
The industry viewed the demand for an “unconditional” pay offer as rejecting the premise of negotiations.
Rail workers have been offered pay rises of 5% for 2022/23 and 4% for 2023/4, in exchange for changes to working practices.
The government controls how much money is on the table and has to sign off on what is agreed. There has been no sign it is prepared to enable further offers to be made.
A smaller union, the TSSA, has accepted.
Network Rail boss Andrew Haines has also cast doubt on the prospect of negotiations resuming, expressing frustration.
He said: “We are having to take stock because three consecutive times we’ve agreed… what we believed was an in principle deal with the negotiators, only for it to be rejected three times by the executive committee of the RMT.”
Network Rail hopes that more trains will be able to run on 16 March compared with previous strikes, however the service that is on offer will still be very limited.
Separately, the train drivers’ union Aslef has held a series of meetings with the RDG in recent weeks, after its initial offer was strongly rejected. The union viewed it as a chance to start again with a blank sheet.
Aslef currently has no more strikes in the diary but further action is possible without a breakthrough.