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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 May, 2004, 12:17 GMT 13:17 UK
Talks to be held in rail dispute
NR Train
Rail employers and union leaders will hold preliminary talks on Friday
Talks aimed at averting a threatened national strike by thousands of rail workers are to be held on Friday.

Leaders of the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) Union will meet Network Rail officials for preliminary discussions over pay and pensions.

An RMT spokesman said if the talks were successful, "in-depth negotiations" would start next week.

Union members voted in favour of strikes last week but Network Rail is hoping to resolve the dispute.

Network Rail chief executive John Armitt, said: "This is a welcome move as the company works with the unions to avert damaging industrial action."

Disruption

If strikes do go ahead, they are expected to cause the worst disruption on the railways for 10 years.

The RMT is seeking an improvement to a 3% pay offer and travel concessions for staff.

Union members have also expressed anger over the closure of the company's final salary pension scheme to new workers.

Mr Armitt recently told BBC News the RMT's demands on pension and travel would cost 40m and the pay demand 11m.

We have said from the start that we are ready for serious negotiations at any time
Bob Crow
RMT union

The extra money was more than the cost of an original 3% pay offer, according to Mr Armitt, who added: "There is not a lot of money available."

Management's move to begin talks was welcomed by the union on Monday.

Last week, the RMT ballot of about 7,000 signalling and maintenance workers backed a strike by 2,947 to 2,246.

Network Rail later released figures showing that signal workers only narrowly backed industrial action, while maintenance staff voted more heavily for walkouts.




SEE ALSO:
Q&A: Rail strike threat
21 May 04  |  UK
Tube staff balloted over strike
17 May 04  |  London


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