FOREST MP Mark Harper has described the RMT Union’s rejection of the latest pay offer as “a kick in the teeth” for rail passengers and its own members.

The workers’ union rejected the latest offers from both Network Rail and the train companies on Friday (February 10), having decided they did not meet members’ expectations on pay, job security or working conditions.

Transport Secretary Mr Harper says that latest rejection shows that “no realistic offer is ever going to be good enough” for the RMT leadership.

But the union’s General Secretary Mick Lynch said accepting the offers would compromise safety on the railways, and that thousands of jobs would be “stripped out” of the industry.

It means the dispute, which began in June last year, is set to continue, with the RMT saying it has a mandate to call further strikes until May when it will re-ballot.

Mr Harper says he has played his part by meeting regularly with all parties, and has criticised the RMT for rejecting the offers without a members’ vote.

He said: “The RMT’s rejection of these best and final offers is a kick in the teeth for passengers across the country and the RMT’s own members, who having been ordered to take strike action are now being blocked from having a say on their own future.

“The RMT’s leaders should have had the courage to allow their own members to have the chance to vote on their own pay and conditions, rather than making that decision for them behind closed doors.

“It is time for those union leaders to face the reality – our railways are currently not financially sustainable, reform is essential. I have played my part. I met union leaders. The Rail Minister and I facilitated regular meetings between all parties. We guaranteed fair and reasonable offers on pay and reform. It is now clear that no realistic offer is ever going to be good enough for the RMT leadership.”

Upon rejecting the offers, Mr Lynch said: “We have carried out an in-depth consultation of our 40,000 members and the message we have received loud and clear is to reject these dreadful offers.

“Our members cannot accept the ripping up of their terms and conditions or to have safety standards on the railway put into jeopardy under the guise of so-called modernisation.

“If our union did accept these offers, we would see a severe reduction in scheduled maintenance tasks, making the railways less safe, the closure of all ticket offices and thousands of jobs stripped out of the industry when the railways need more investment not less.

“We have carried out an extensive listening exercise and our members have spoken.

“It is now time for the employers and the government to listen to railway workers in their tens of thousands.

“Our industrial campaign will continue for as long as it takes to get a negotiated settlement that meets our members reasonable expectations on jobs, pay and working conditions.”

The rejection comes after Mr Harper called for “fundamental reform” of the industry in his George Bradshaw address last week.

In his speech last Wednesday (February 7), he described the current system as “fragmented” and “stuck in the past”, and said the railways in their current state are “not fit for purpose”.

He reaffirmed the government’s plan to create an over-arching public body for the industry, Great British Railways (GBR), and also made the case for greater private sector input and for less public money to be spent on rail.

Mr Lynch said the speech was an attempt to divert attention from the current crisis in the industry.

He added that rail privatisation had been an “unmitigated disaster”, and that reform needed to have public ownership ”at its core”.