A new round of rail strikes has been announced in the run-up to Christmas and the New Year.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union announced a series of 48-hour strikes in December and January as part of a long-running dispute over pay, jobs, and conditions.
Over 40,000 members from Network Rail and 14 train operating companies will strike on December 13, 14, 16, and 17, as well as on January 3, 4, 6 and 7.
Overtime will also be prohibited from December 18 to January 2.
The RMT cited rail executives‘ failure to offer new contracts as well as alleged government interference in the negotiations.
Its statement said: “Despite every effort made by our negotiators, it is clear that the government is directly interfering with our attempts to reach a settlement. The union suspended previous strike action in good faith to allow for intensive negotiations to resolve the dispute.
“Yet, Network Rail have failed to make an improved offer on jobs, pay and conditions for our members during the last two weeks of talks. At the same time Rail Delivery Group, representing the train operating companies, have also broken a promise to make a meaningful offer on pay and conditions and even cancelled negotiations that were due to take place yesterday.”
Rail workers were due to take to the picket lines on 5, 7 and 9 November but cancelled walkouts and engaged in two weeks of talks.
Emerging from those talks, the rail operators were due to make written proposals for the union to offer to members, the RMT claimed.
General secretary Mick Lynch said: “After a fortnight of talks, the TOCs [train operating companies] had committed to making a firm offer in writing for the first time today. They cancelled the meeting at an hour’s notice, and we can sense the hand of the Tory government in this as we believe that they are not allowing an offer to be made. This is on top of Network Rail failing to make a new proposal at the end of last week.”
The latest action is part of a looming winter of walkouts in the UK.
PM Rishi Sunak warned his Cabinet on Tuesday, November 22 that “challenging” months lay ahead amid the cost of living crisis, wider strike action and pressures on the NHS.
His official spokesman added: “Clearly, further strike action risks putting the future of the rail industry in jeopardy. We are continuing to call on union leaders to work with employers to come to an agreement that is fair to passengers, taxpayers and workers.”
Last week, the RMT was given a mandate by members to continue strike action for a further six months.
Tim Shoveller, Network Rail’s chief negotiator, said: “No one can deny the precarious financial hole in which the railway finds itself.
“Striking make that hole bigger and the task of finding a resolution ever more difficult. Only through reform, which will not result in anyone losing their job, can savings be made that can then be converted into an improved offer.
“And while progress has been made over these last two weeks, we still have yet to find that breakthrough. We will not give up and hope that the RMT will return to the table next week with a more realistic appreciation of the situation.”
A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group said: “We made real progress over the last fortnight of talks and for the first time in months we can see the outline of a credible deal.
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“Further strikes, especially in the run-up to Christmas, will disrupt the first normal festive season our passengers have been able to look forward to since the COVID pandemic, taking even more money out of the pockets of railway staff, and will cause huge damage to the hospitality and retail sectors dependent on this time of the year for their businesses. We owe it to them to stay round the table.
“Industrial action has already cost the industry millions in lost revenue, is stalling its post-pandemic recovery, and threatening its long-term sustainability. We are asking the RMT to stay at the negotiating table, work with us towards a fair deal and end a dispute that is harming passengers, the industry, and their members.”
The RMT is just one of many unions that have organised and are threatening strike action. Civil servants, nurses, postal workers, ambulance workers, and firefighter unions have all considered or planned work stoppages.
Source: Sky News