Pay talks have stalled at the Midland Metro light railway– with drivers and conductors overwhelmingly spurning a controversial two-tier offer.
A pay dispute is simmering at the National Express-run Birmingham to Wolverhampton rail operation after employees rejected the initial deal by a majority vote in a consultative ballot.
But Unite union regional official John Partridge said he remained hopeful of a settlement if the Midland Metro staff could win a pay agreement similar to last year’s National Express bus drivers’ deal.
Mr Partridge said the National Express offer had centred on a salary benchmark of £25,000 a year. “£25,000 a year was the cut-off point.
For those earning less than £25,000 a year there was a 2.2 per cent increase on offer and for those earning more there was 1.4 per cent, plus a £50 one-off lump sum.
“We were trying to get the lower paid people a better deal and it was turned down by 76 to 15.
“I was disappointed with the offer and therefore we were not prepared to recommend it and there was no great surprise that it has been turned down by a considerable margin.
“This affects drivers, conductors, controllers,engineers – everybody apart from management.
“But I do not think that it is going to take a huge amount of improvement to get to a settlement.
"At present we are a little way short of what meets our members’ aspirations but I would be relatively hopeful that we would be able to bridge the gap.”
He said a deal corresponding to last year’s bus drivers’ agreement could break the deadlock.
The union revealed last autumn that it had won pay rises for 3,500 drivers of two and a half per cent from October last year and two and a half per cent from October this year.
The deal, including improvements in sick pay for some, was agreed by a majority vote of 1,079 in favour to 797 against.