Union boss Mick Lynch has said that a deal over the train strikes could be reached “next week” as the second walkout in five days started this morning.
Commuters faced more travel misery as members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) walked out for 48 hours from Friday (16 December), crippling services across the country.
The latest strike will affect 14 rail companies and Network Rail, with passengers being urged to only travel “if absolutely necessary”. Network Rail has advised commuters to check their train-operating company’s website before travelling as delays and cancellations are also likely on the days around the strikes. Trains that are running will only be in operation from 7.30am to 6.30pm on this week’s strike days, with some areas having no trains at all.
It comes after a meeting held on Thursday (15 December) failed to break the deadlock. RMT general secretary Lynch said that rail minister Huw Merriman requested further talks between the union and employers Network Rail and the Rail Delivery Group to find a resolution. He said: “These meetings will be arranged but, in the meantime, all industrial action remains in place.”
Mr Merriman argued that there is “clearly an appetite amongst the workers themselves to strike a deal” after the TSSA union accepted a pay offer from Network Rail.
Mick Lynch suggests pay deal could be reached ‘in next week’
Lynch suggested a deal in the dispute over pay and conditions could be reached “in the next week or so”, as he played down the impact of next week’s rail strikes on passengers.
Speaking to Sky News from London Euston station, he said: “We know that the public will be upset and even angry about the disruption. Some of that anger should be put towards the government and the companies, we believe. But the disruption for people on the strike days that are actually happening at Christmas will be minimal.
“The railway shuts down on Christmas Eve in any case to do engineering works, so there aren’t scheduled trains on Christmas Day, nor on Boxing Day, and the railway curtails its activities early on Christmas Eve. That will be a little bit earlier than usual. But people have got time now to make plans. And I hope that they’re successful in that, and that we can progress these talks to maybe get some solutions in the next week or so.”
Asked what it would take to call off next week’s walkouts, he said: “Resolutions to disputes are about compromises. We understand what the companies want and they understand what what we need. So we need some compromise on some of the conditions they’re putting on the offer and we’ll need an improvement in the pay offer. That is achievable, in my view.”
He added: “I know that there are some very simple steps that the employers and ourselves could take together to get a solution to this. That means a common-sense approach – both sides get into a position where there’s some commonly held positions. And I think we could do that in the next period. And if that is done very quickly, we can consider the industrial action going forward.”
The latest walkout follows two days of RMT strike action earlier this week and is the latest strike of many taking place this winter, with the government being blamed for the series of industrial disputes.
Commuters have more travel disruption to come later this month rail workers’ union the TSSA has also announced extra strike action during the Christmas holidays, as staff at more train companies walk out in a row over pay, jobs and conditions.
Members of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association will take action at West Midlands Trains (WMT) and Great Western Railway (GWR) on Wednesday 28 December, holding a 24-hour walkout from noon. It comes just days after the TSSA confirmed its members would go on strike at CrossCountry on Boxing Day and 27 December.
The union said it believes the walkouts will severely affect services at the three operators, which covers large swathes of the country, from Penzance in Cornwall, to London the Midlands, Wales, and Scottish cities as far north as Aberdeen. The action replaces strikes at CrossCountry and WMT by the TSSA on 17 December which have now been cancelled.
Elsewhere, nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland went on strike on Thursday in the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) first national action. RCN leader Pat Cullen warned that action by nurses would escalate unless ministers were prepared to negotiate in the dispute over pay and conditions.
The union argues that low wages are driving “chronic understaffing” which puts patients at risk and leaves nurses overworked, underpaid and undervalued. However, ministers have refused to discuss salaries and insisted that this should be left to independent pay review bodies.
Thursday’s action involved about a quarter of hospitals and community teams in England and the RCN warned it could go further if the government continues to hold out.
Cullen told BBC’s Question Time: “We started today with 46 organisations. And why did we do that? We did that because we wanted to make sure that we manage this strike safely and effectively for every patient, the people that I’m speaking with here tonight in this room, and every other patient in England and Wales and Northern Ireland.
“As time moves on – unfortunately if this government doesn’t speak to us and doesn’t get into a room – I’m afraid that this will escalate.”