Railway workers are to stage a series of 48-hour strikes in December and January in the long-running dispute over pay, jobs and conditions, the RMT union announced.
More than 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union across Network Rail and 14 train operating companies will strike on various dates in December and at the start of January. An overtime ban will also be in place.
The RMT said train operators and Network Rail had promised to make proposals following “intensive talks” which ended last week. The union said it suspended strike action on the basis that new proposals would be made by 17 November, but no new proposals have been made for it to consider or put to its members.
The union has accused the government of interfering with its bid to reach a settlement, and says Network Rail has failed to make an improved offer after two weeks of talks.
In a previous statement the Department of Transport had denied the government was holding up negotiations and said: “Negotiations are between unions and employers and it is incorrect to claim the government is holding them up. It’s vital such talks continue and all parties work together to avoid more damaging strike action, and prevent further chaos on the railways. The very future of the industry depends on it.”
When are the strikes?
RMT has said action will take place on December 13, 14, 16 and 17 and on January 3, 4, 6 and 7. There will also be an overtime ban across the railways from December 18 until January 2, meaning RMT be taking industrial action for four weeks.
What has RMT said?
A statement from the union about the action 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.”
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “This latest round of strikes will show how important our members are to the running of this country and will send a clear message that we want a good deal on job security, pay and conditions for our people.
“We have been reasonable, but it is impossible to find a negotiated settlement when the dead hand of Government is presiding over these talks. The employers are in disarray and saying different things to different people, sometimes at the same time.
“This whole process has become a farce that only the new secretary of state can resolve. When I meet him later this week, I will deliver that message.
“In the meantime, our message to the public is, we are sorry to inconvenience you, but we urge you to direct your anger and frustration at the Government and railway employers during this latest phase of action. We call upon all trades unionists in Britain to take a stand and fight for better pay and conditions in their respective industries.
“And we will seek to co-ordinate strike action and demonstrations where we can. Working people across our class need a pay rise and we are determined to win that for our members in RMT.”
What had the Rail Delivery Group said?
The Rail Delivery Group previously said “real progress” has been made over the past fortnight and it has now prepared the “outline of a credible deal”, warning that further strike action “will only cause further misery for customers and struggling businesses in the run up to Christmas and beyond”.
A spokesperson said: “The RMT leadership should now remove any uncertainty around Christmas and commit to protecting everyone’s first festive period post-Covid from any strike disruption.
“The alternative is a bleak winter of industrial action, making it harder to find workable solutions to bring about the much-needed changes that will help secure the railway’s future and unlock the funds for a pay offer.
“Revenues are still 20% down on 2019 level and this dispute has brought the industry’s post-pandemic recovery to a shuddering halt – with strikes since June resulting in lost revenue of £250-£300 million.
“We urge the RMT leadership to stay at the negotiating table so we can build on that progress and end a dispute that is harming passengers and businesses, the industry, and their members.”
A Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association said it has a “written invitation to talks” with both Network Rail and train operators this week in which to discuss the dispute. A spokesperson confirmed: “TSSA will be attending talks this week in good faith and attempt to secure the best possible negotiated settlement to this dispute.”