Striking rail maintenance workers are already paid nearly a fifth more than those in comparable roles, the industry regulator said.
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) said workers demanding double-digit pay rises are already earning wages 18% higher than “market comparators”.
The independent analysis sheds new light on the bitter labor dispute that has led to railway strikes across the country.
Most of Britain’s railways will come to a standstill again on Saturday as members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers’ Union (RMT) walk out. Only one in five trains are expected to run with rail insiders saying strikes by flagmen mean it is impossible to run near a full service.
ORR commissioned independent consultants to review the total compensation, including compensation, pension costs and other measurable benefits, of 64,000 railway workers.
Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, the public sector body which employs flagmen and other maintenance staff, said ORR’s analysis showed many rail workers are already enjoying lucrative pay.
He said: “Our staff play a vital role in delivering service to millions of passengers and, as the ORR report revealed, we offer a competitive package at market rates to reward and attract passengers. best talent. As a public sector body, we balance this with the need to spend public money wisely. »
Transmission workers and other maintenance workers are not the only ones who already benefit from a bonus.
Salaries for station staff are 12% higher than the “market median”, ORR found.
On average across the rail industry, the total salary, including benefits and pensions, was £45,172, around 6.5% higher than the comparator salary of £42,408.
Train drivers were among the highest paid frontline rail workers, receiving an average of £66,043 a year. This compares to the average UK salary of £31,876, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The RMT is now pledging to continue the industrial action for another six months to ratchet up the pressure on rail operators and Network Rail.
Railway chiefs are under pressure from Whitehall to cut railway costs to reduce the burden on taxpayers.
Total pay for Network Rail workers who are not maintenance staff is “well within market rates“, meaning less than 10% higher than comparators.
Liz Truss is under increasing pressure to follow through on her promise to crack down on unions, fearing the rail network will be completely shut down by Christmas.
Ms Truss promised to take “firm and decisive action to limit the ability of unions to cripple our economy”.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the business secretary, has been tasked with drawing up a list of “important public services” on which legal limits on strike action can be imposed.
Union leaders have warned they will try to bring the rail network to a standstill again as Christmas approaches unless there is a negotiated settlement of their wage demands, saying their members are being ‘hollowed out’ for a protracted conflict.
The RMT is preparing to vote for the striking members after their current term ends at the end of November.
Responding to the ORR report, Mick Lynch, the general secretary of the RMT, said: “The policy thrust of this report is to target the pay and conditions of maintenance workers and station staff – the same railway workers facing massive job cuts.
“The ORR also fails to recognize the exorbitant pay of Network Rail executives who have brought in around £1million over the past two years. In stark contrast, Network Rail staff have suffered a 3 month pay freeze years and saw a sharp decline in the standard of living.
“There are also people who work for the railway companies who have suffered for years from low wages.
“Strong unions like the RMT are important for raising wages and creating good, safe working environments. And if that means RMT member salaries are above the market rate, there is something wrong with the market.
Network Rail disputed some of Mr Lynch’s claims. They said operations and maintenance staff recorded a salary increase of 3.2% in 2019 and 2.2% in 2020.
It was not until 2021 that their salaries were frozen, like the rest of the public sector. The payments to executives mentioned by Mr Lynch were not annual, but aggregated over the years, Network Rail added.
Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA, said: “The employment cost report will stoke the ire of railway workers who are already at breaking point. It is a scandal that in 21st century Britain some of the lowest paid railway workers are not even on real living wages, and many more are turning to food banks and voluntary grants to feed their families and join both ends.
“The rail industry is a specific and defined market in its own right with distinct roles and thousands and thousands of highly skilled professional jobs, making comparisons with a wider ‘market’ difficult.”