[V]irgin Trains has confirmed that it will run the majority of its west coast services during industrial action by the RMT. Announcing its commitment to keep customers moving over the festive season, the train operator reassured customers that they will still be able to travel on the strike dates announced by the RMT.
Phil Whittingham, Managing Director for Virgin Trains on the west coast, said: “The RMT leadership is attempting to cause disruption when many will want to travel by train to spend time with loved ones. We have explored a generous 3.6% pay increase, however the trade union’s leadership is insisting on 4%, double the two percent average increase seen across the UK this year. We know how important it is for friends and families to get together over the festive season, so we will keep the majority of our trains running with fully-trained staff onboard and at stations. We remain open to continuing talks with the RMT.”
The commitment follows RMT’s announcement that its leadership has rejected a 3.2% pay deal first offered by Virgin Trains in April 2017. Since then, in a bid to agree a deal, Virgin Trains has informally offered a 3.6% pay increase for 2017/18 backdated to April 2017, and a deal for the following year of RPI (Jan 2018) +0.2%. This increased offer is in return for the greater security a two-year deal provides for our customers.
The offer has been rejected by the RMT leadership which is insisting on a 4% increase for this year, followed by an increase the following year of RPI +0.25%. Any informal offer needs approval by the Department for Transport before being agreed.
Provisional estimates from the Office for National Statistics show that in 2017, the average (median) pay increase for full-time workers was 2%. In agreement with RMT and TSSA, Virgin Trains has traditionally linked annual pay awards to the January RPI figure (2.6% in Jan 2017), and has consistently paid its staff above RPI.
Customers take over 37m journeys on Virgin Trains west coast route every year, which serves 49 stations between London and Glasgow, including key economic centres like Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester.
Virgin Trains services on the east coast are not affected.