Union bosses have blocked a rail pay deal that could have averted a strike

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Rail union leaders were on the brink of cancellation Wednesday strikes after being offered a sweetened payment late last week, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said it was “optimistic” about a breakthrough after Network Rail committed to a “4 + 4” deal offering a 4% pay rise this year and next .

But the union was accused on Tuesday night of “marching rail bosses up the hill and down again” after negotiators were voted out by the RMT national executive.

It came as Grant Shapps sought to prevent rail unions from repeating walkouts under the “one vote, one strike” rule. It is part of a package of 16 proposed measures drawn up by the Transport Secretary and expected to be backed by Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss.

The change could stop strikes like Wednesday’s, as unions would no longer be able to take such action without a fresh vote from their members. Wednesday’s national RMT strike follows three days of strikes at the end of June.

In an exclusive article for The Telegraph, Mr. Shapps said: “Currently a single vote gives unions a six-month window in which to strike without further reference to membership during that time. In the future, every single continuous strike should be justified by its own vote.”

Industry sources said RMT union negotiator Eddie Dempsey believed “we can see a way through this and are prepared to postpone the strikes”. However, the proposals were rejected by the ruling RMT executive after being put forward by Mr Dempsey.

“They took us up the hill and down again,” the source added. “RMT chief executive appears intent on reviving valid trade union movement.”

The union, however, insisted that Network Rail had changed its position. An RMT spokesman said: “We were optimistic that we would make enough progress to end the strike.

“However, this fizzled out as Network Rail toughened its stance on attacks on our members’ working conditions and even threatened to put compulsory redundancies back on the table.”

with only one of the five scheduled trains on Wednesday and a reduced “Sunday service” likely on Thursday, drivers will be forced to stay at home while UK holidaymakers have their plans ruined.

The RMT’s industrial action is aimed at Network Rail, the state-backed owner of tracks and stations, and 14 train operators. Further measures on the railways are planned for August 18 and 20. Strikes will return on Saturday when train drivers’ union Aslef walks out of eight train operators.

The RMT announced industrial action on Tuesday at London Underground Aug 19as a result of which public transport in the capital came to a standstill for almost three days.

Mr Shapps accused the unions of putting the future of the railways at risk with their “reckless perpetual strike”, while suggesting that this week’s dual strike strategy by the RMT and Aslef could also be banned.

He said such tactics produce “the most disruptive punches for the least amount of union money.”

“So I am thinking of banning strikes by different unions at the same workplace for a certain period,” he added.

Mr. Shapps also proposed a rule requiring ballots to clearly state the specific reason for the strike so that the union could not make other demands or reasons; limit of six bounces at critical national infrastructure points; and a 60-day cooling-off period following a strike.

This is in addition to proposals for a minimum of 50 per cent of those voting for industrial action, up from 40 per cent, and an increase in the minimum notice period from two to four weeks.

“The default strategy adopted by the RMT and others in industrial relations – their casual, conventional, brutal recourse to shock weapons – must end. As a government, we must face this threat head on and make union bosses think twice before using it,” Mr Shapps said.

However, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch warned on Tuesday that his campaign could last until next summer unless rail chiefs resign.

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