RAIL operator Virgin East Coast says it will run a “near normal” service in the event of strike action by the RMT union.

The union’s members are being balloted over a 3.2 per cent pay increase which the RMT says had previously been rejected by the workforce and is now being imposed.

It said agreement to the offer would see further productivity and efficiency savings, as well as changes to sick pay arrangements.

The union also claims it will lead to a “two tier workforce” with different terms and conditions for its members, depending on their grade.

Last week the Government signalled an early end to the multi-million pound franchise deal signed by Virgin and partner Stagecoach to operate East Coast services, which will instead be replaced by a new East Coast Partnership from 2020.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash claimed its members were being forced to pay the price for the mismanagement of the franchise.

He said: “We will not stand by while Virgin East Coast attempt to impose a two tier workforce with different terms and conditions for our members.”

A Virgin spokesman said it was disappointed with the RMT following its “very fair” offer, adding: “We can reassure customers that we expect to be able to run a near normal service in the event of any industrial action.”