How union tycoons tore up agreements that would have canceled strikes

Hardline union leaders were accused last night of tearing up a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ that could have put an end to crippling British rail strikes.

The Mail on Sunday was told that during crisis talks earlier this month, Eddie Dempsey, chief negotiator for the Maritime Rail and Transport (RMT) union, declared that Network Rail’s improved payment offer was ‘the best deal we could negotiate’. ‘ .

Dempsey agreed that the proposed 9 percent wage increase would be put to the railroad workers in a “fair” vote over two weeks, during which union bosses would remain neutral, according to a senior source close to the talks.

His comments seemed to herald a major breakthrough and were the closest the two sides had come to an agreement that would avoid more massive disruptive strikes.

Eddie Dempsey (pictured), chief negotiator for the Marine Rail and Transportation (RMT) union, declared Network Rail’s improved payment offer was ‘the best deal we could negotiate’

But in a move that shocked the railway bosses, the RMT’s hard-left leadership tore up the oral agreement and instead urged the railroad workers to turn down the offer, allegedly.

RMT members did so after only being given four days to vote. The hardline union then dramatically escalated the feud by announcing more strikes from 24 to 27 December.

The source blamed Mick Lynch, the RMT’s general secretary, for waging a “political crusade” against the Tory government and using RMT members as “pawns in a larger political game”.

“The negotiation team from Network Rail and from RMT shook hands over the content of the deal, to the point where the chief negotiator from RMT said this was the best deal we could negotiate,” said the source.

The gentlemen’s agreement was that they would take it away, and put it to referendum to their members, without any recommendation one way or the other, and a proper referendum for a fortnight, during which strikes would be suspended.

Instead, we got an outright rejection from the RMT, a four-day electronic referendum instead of a two-week one, and additional strike days called Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

“It is clear from their behavior that there is more to it than is obvious and that the people in the room are not really in a position to negotiate a deal.”

But in a move that shocked railway bosses, RMT's hard-left leadership tore up the oral agreement and instead urged rail workers to turn down the offer, allegedly.

But in a move that shocked railway bosses, the RMT’s hard-left leadership tore up the oral agreement and instead urged rail workers to turn down the offer, allegedly.

An RMT spokesperson disputed the allegations last night. “The union does not present a blow-by-blow account of the negotiations, but this is not an accurate picture of the discussions,” he said.

The revelation came as commuters experienced more travel misery yesterday as RMT completed their second 48-hour strike in a week, with only about a fifth of services running yesterday and Friday. Another wave of strikes will occur on January 3, 4, 6 and 7.

In an effort to settle the dispute, Network Rail has offered a wage increase of at least 9 percent for this year and next, rising to at least 11 percent for the lowest paid.

She also pledged that there will be no mandatory layoffs until January 31, 2025.

Yesterday, some railway workers were allegedly verbally abused and threatened by members of the striking RMT last week, with reports of at least one physical altercation.

On Wednesday, a group of about 15 striking workers on a picket line outside a maintenance depot in Leeds hurled abuse, including “You have scabies” and “We know where you live”, at a group of workers. who were attending a training course.

RMT Union forwards at Manchester's Picket Line on Friday, December 16th

RMT Union forwards at Manchester’s Picket Line on Friday, December 16th

This weekend Network Rail bosses were examining CCTV footage after allegations of ‘pushing and finger biting’.

It is also alleged that during Friday’s strike, a group of contractors working on a railway in Nottingley, West Yorkshire, were abused, with RMT members shouting ‘you all scuff******’, ‘p*** out of the house .

A Network Rail spokesperson said: ‘We fully respect the right of our workforce to strike and picket, but such picketing must be lawful and reasonably done.

“We hear a lot of cases where this is not the case.”

An RMT spokesperson said: “RMT lines across the railway network have been well attended, energetic and supported by the public. We have no reports of any problems on any picket line during the dispute.

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