The Rail Delivery Group, which represents the rail companies, said it had rejected a cost-of-living pay rise for RMT memberson the grounds that it would be ‘unfair to taxpayers’ given the emergency funding the government had provided to the industry during the pandemic.
Yet just last week, the UK’s largest train operator, FirstGroup, boasted to investors that profits for this year were “ahead of expectation” and pledged to resume dividend payouts. The company handed its shareholders £500m in December 2021.
Abellio, which runs Greater Anglia, East Midlands Railway and West Midlands Railway, contributed €355m (£305m) to the profits of its sole shareholder – the Dutch state railway – according to latter's 2021 annual report.
UK Treasury chief secretary Simon Clarke said private and public sector workers should exercise “pay discipline” and take real-terms pay cuts to curb inflation. However, rail bosses have largely seen their pay continue to rise, or faced only superficial cuts.
The CEOs of the six biggest train companies took home a combined salary of more than £5m in 2020.
In the last financial year, FirstGroup CEO Matthew Gregory was paid £840,000 – 6% more than he received in 2019-2020 and 30 times more than what the company’s lowest-paid workers earned, according to its latest annual accounts.
By contrast, rail companies offered the RMT a 2% pay rise, with an additional 1% contingent on accepting changes to their terms and conditions, in their latest round of negotiations.
Go-Ahead Group, which operates the Govia Thameslink Railway, paid its interim chief financial officer a salary of £100,000 a month from September 2021 to March 2022 while it recruited a permanent replacement. The company recently announced it would resume paying dividends in 2022, having last paid out £30m to shareholders in 2019.