RMT members employed by Network Rail and train operating companies are set to strike on 27 July after rejecting a fresh pay offer.
Network Rail had said the offer was worth more than 5% but was dependent on “modernising reforms”.
The RMT union, however, described the offer as “paltry” and a real terms pay cut and would lead to the loss of a third of frontline maintenance roles.
Thousands of Network Rail workers have already taken part in national strike action in June bringing services to a halt across the UK.
According to Network Rail, the offer was “conditional on achieving savings through modernising reforms”, and said money was on the table for a pay deal next year too.
“While money is extremely tight because of the railway’s financial troubles following the pandemic, we can afford to make this offer if our people accept change and compromise, which will fund it,” a Network Rail spokesman said.
The offer guaranteed there would be no compulsory redundancies for two years, which unions had been calling for, and employees and their immediate families would get 75% off rail travel.
The spokesman said Network Rail hoped the fresh offer to its 20,000 employees would break the deadlock that led to strike action.
But Mick Lynch, the RMT’s general secretary, criticised the train operating companies for being “stubborn” and not making an increased pay offer. He said: “Strike action is the only course open to us to make both the rail industry and government understand that this dispute will continue for as long as it takes, until we get a negotiated settlement.
“The offer from Network Rail represents a real-terms pay cut for our members and the paltry sum is conditional on RMT members agreeing to drastic changes in their working lives.
“We have made progress on compulsory redundancies. But Network Rail are still seeking to make our members poorer when we have won in some cases double what they are offering, with other rail operators.”
Lynch accused the government of closet involvement in the dispute and of “shackling” Network Rail and the train operating companies. The union alleged Network Rail negotiators have been in regular communication with government officials over negotiations.
The government conceded that it was following negotiations closely but said that it could not become involved because “government is not the employer here”.
Lynch said the union remained open for further talks.
Members of the train drivers’ union, Aslef, voted on Monday to go on strike over pay. Aslef balloted drivers at Chiltern, GWR, LNER, London Overground, Northern, Southeastern, TransPennine and West Midlands railways.