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Network Rail boss denies ministers urged it to cap pay offer

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theguardian.com

The head of Network Rail has denied that the government leaned on it to cap a pay increase for its workers, as it failed to prevent the biggest train strikes in 30 years.Attempts to avert the strikes through talks failed on Monday evening and the RMT accused the government of preventing a deal.The union believes the government put pressure on Network Rail not to exceed a pay increase of 3% because of the precedent this might set and the risk of inflation.The RMT is asking for a 7% pay rise and has rejected an offer of 2% with a further 1% tied to job cuts.The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said on Tuesday that calls for the government to help resolve the strikes by joining negotiations was a “stunt”.The Network Rail chief executive, Andrew Haines, said the government had not had a hand in the company’s pay offer.Asked four times on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether it had been encouraged by Shapps or anyone else in government to stick to 3%, Haines repeatedly denied it.“No, we haven’t [been told to], because the government recognises there’s so much productivity available in the industry that for the right deal we could go above that.

So 3% would be a constraint if we weren’t able to achieve any productivity,” he said.In theory Network Rail is able to offer a higher pay settlement by shuffling its overall budget, but in practice the RMT believes it is toeing the government line.Mick Lynch, the RMT general secretary, said on Monday that Network Rail’s refusal to go above 3% was coming from Shapps’ department, saying “the dead hand of this Tory government is all over this dispute”.Lynch stuck by his position on Tuesday, telling Today: “We believe that the companies can offer [a better deal] and they’re on the verge

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