Union Strike Cost Workers More Than They Gained

Rail workers on strike for months have suffered significant wage losses, outpacing the potential pay increase offered by a newly accepted union deal.

Data reveals that train guards have experienced an average wage loss of £3,600 since the RMT union-initiated strikes in June. Similarly, onboard catering staff and ticket vendors have seen wage reductions of approximately £2,990. These losses contrast with the modest lump sum of £1,750 offered to the lowest-paid workers, part of a deal recently accepted by RMT leadership aimed at concluding the 18-month-long strike.

The deal’s approval is contingent on a ballot involving 20,000 train guards, catering staff, and ticket vendors. The union is not recommending its rejection, which suggests the workers may accept it.

RMT head Mick Lynch acknowledged that the union had only attained a ‘very modest’ offer, but he reiterated the importance of their actions. Speaking to the BBC, he emphasized that the purpose of the strikes was to preserve their members’ working terms and conditions.

Lynch dismissed allegations of surrender, stating, “It’s not simply about the money. We are adamant in refusing to let our terms and conditions be drastically reduced. If our members decline this offer, we will persist with our campaign, which may, regrettably, involve further industrial action.”

The deal has been greeted with cautious optimism by some, including Transport Secretary Mark Harper, who is hopeful that an agreement can be reached with Aslef, the train drivers’ union that has been striking with the RMT.

The economic impact of over 30 national walkouts staged by both unions since June 2022 is estimated at over £5 billion. Greg Smith, Tory MP and member of the Commons transport committee expressed relief over the potential end of the strikes despite their prolonged duration and the adverse effects on millions of commuters.

The breakthrough follows the introduction of new strike laws by ministers, which limit rail unions’ ability to disrupt national operations. Due to taking effect in early December pending parliamentary approval, these laws will require unions to maintain 40 percent of train services on strike days or face penalties of up to £1 million for each instance.