Biggest British railway strikes in decades after failed negotiations |  Rail industry

Biggest British railway strikes in decades after failed negotiations | Rail industry

Biggest British railway strikes in decades after failed negotiations |  Rail industry

The biggest railway strikes in three decades are set to begin Tuesday after belated talks failed to break the deadlock, with the RMT union leadership warning that union action “will take as long as necessary”.

Most train services in Britain will be canceled on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays in a dispute over pay and conditions. On main lines and around urban areas, only a skeleton service will operate.

London Underground workers will also be on strike for 24 hours on Tuesday, bringing the capital’s transport system to a standstill.

The RMT’s general secretary, Mick Lynch, insisted that the rail dispute cannot be resolved without the government “lifting the shackles” from Network Rail and train operators. All parts of the rail industry, as well as Transport for London, have been told to cut back on fare cutbacks since Covid.

But the transportation secretary, Grant Shapps, insisted that discussions remain a matter for employers. He said the strikes were “orchestrated by some of the highest paid union barons, representing some of the better paid workers in this country, causing misery and chaos for millions of commuters.”

The RMT said a wage offer was made by train operators in last-ditch talks on Monday, believed to be around 2-3%, with commitments and no guarantees against redundancies. The union turned down the offer and a similar proposal from Network Rail on Friday.

Lynch said the offers were unacceptable, adding: “What we have come to understand is that the dead hand of this Tory government is everywhere in this dispute – and Grant Shapps’ fingerprints and Rishi Sunak’s DNA are all over the problems in the railway, and indeed in this society.”

He said the source of the dispute was the government’s decision to “cut £4bn in funding from the national railways and TfL … forcing companies to implement transport cuts … and they have a settlement for this dispute.” to prevent”.

Lynch said: “Until they allow the employers to negotiate freely, I can’t see that we will get a settlement… Our campaign will go on as long as it takes until we have a settlement acceptable to our people. “

When asked if the union action could take months otherwise, Lynch said, “I think so, yes.”

However, he said the RMT remained available for talks during the week.

Network Rail has said that a larger wage increase – albeit well below current 11% RPI inflation – could be possible if coupled with modernization of maintenance and scheduling.

Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive said: “No strike is inevitable until it starts. But unfortunately disruption is guaranteed tomorrow, so we ask passengers to plan ahead and travel by train only if necessary.

“We remain in talks with the RMT and urge them to work with us to find a solution that works for rail workers and taxpayers, and to avoid further inconvenience to our passengers.”

Train operators said they were “deeply disappointed” that the union had turned down their last-ditch offer. Steve Montgomery, Chairman of the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), said: “With passenger numbers still around 80% of pre-pandemic levels, the industry remains committed to fair pay, while they are no longer than its fair share of taxpayers, which can only be achieved by making improvements – such as offering better services on Sundays – that match the changing needs of passengers, so we can pull out more.”

The RDG said train operators’ collective wage bill had risen from £3.1bn in 2017-18 to £3.6bn in 2019-20, partly as a result of increased staffing levels, and that the government had supported the sector with a additional £16 billion during the pandemic.

Shapps insisted in the Commons, “We leave this to the employers, who are the right people to negotiate with the unions.”

However, he added, “The industry needs to change.”

“We are not imposing a wage freeze… But let me be clear, for modernization and reform to work, we must have unions willing to modernize, otherwise there can be no deal,” Shapps said.

A YouGov survey commissioned by the RDG found that about 25% of voters supported the RMT action, while 39% did not.

The absence of Network Rail signalmen will have the most impact among the 40,000 striking workers, including shipboard and station workers from 13 train companies.

The strike will disrupt services for six days, with delayed starts and shorter schedules on non-strike days, leaving most of Wales, Scotland, rural northern England and the south west of the country for much of the week without trains.

TfL has advised against travel on all of its services on Tuesday, with virtually no Tubes and buses and London Overground trains liable to be jammed and disrupted.