FOREST MP Mark Harper was “pleased” Network Rail workers voted to accept a “fair and reasonable” pay offer last week and called for the RMT to allow train operating company workers the chance to do the same.

And after government-facilitated talks between the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) and the union last Wednesday (March 22), industrial action scheduled for this week (March 30 and April 1) was suspended to allow discussion of a newly-tabled offer.

In the meantime the RMT says the dispute “remains on”, with the union set to hold further talks with the RDG with a view to securing a new offer on pay, job security and working conditions.

The RMT announced last Tuesday (March 20) that Network Rail workers had voted “overwhelmingly” - by 76 per cent to 24 per cent with a turnout of nearly 90 - to accept a “new and improved” offer, ending the pay dispute which has seen multiple days of strike action over several months.

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said at the time of the announcement that “the ball is in the government’s court” on ending the RDG dispute by coming back with a better deal.

Secretary of State for Transport Mr Harper told the House of Commons that the result of the Network Rail vote showed just how many workers “wanted to call time” on the long running dispute.

He said: “From the moment I became Transport Secretary the Rail Minister and I have worked tirelessly to change the tone of the dispute.

“We sat down with all the rail union leaders and facilitated fair and reasonable pay offers.”

He added he was pleased Network Rail workers had “accepted the need for a modern railway” in voting for the offer.

He went on to criticise the RMT for not allowing train operating company workers the same chance to vote on the latest offer, before this week’s strikes were suspended following discussions last Wednesday (March 22).