Services will continue to be disrupted today (7 November) despite a series of planned strikes over pay and conditions being called off on Friday, and only a few train operators will run a reduced timetable due to the change coming at such short notice. Some services on Wednesday are also likely to be disrupted.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) and Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) were set to stage walkouts over the coming days in a long running dispute over jobs, pay and conditions.
The RMT suspended the strikes after securing “unconditional” talks with Network Rail (NR) and the promise of a pay offer from the train operating companies, while the TSSA said it was calling off its planned strikes on 5, 7, 8 and 9 November after receiving an invitation to “intensive talks” from the Rail Delivery Group.
TSSA members were due to take strike action in five different rail companies on different days over the period. Interim general secretary Frank Ward said: “We have always said that strikes are a last resort, and we are glad to finally be invited to the first set of formal talks with train operators in months.”
Dispute over pay ‘very much alive’
Despite calling off the planned industrial action, the union said the dispute remains “very much live” and it is continuing its re-ballot of members to secure a fresh mandate for action with the result due on 15 November. Talks will now be held over the next few weeks to try to resolve the dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.
A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group said advice remains to check before travelling. He said: “Unfortunately, the late notice of the suspension of strike action means that while train companies are working hard to reinstate services, some services will remain severely disrupted for our passengers into the early part of next week and our advice remains to please check before you travel.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Network Rail said there will be a “quite a mixed picture” of delays and cancellations on Monday depending on the train operator.
Widespread disruption is not expected on Tuesday and services should be running as normal on Wednesday, which had been another planned strike day, since operators will have had time to reorganise the usual timetables again.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “The threat of strike action and our strongly supported industrial campaign has made the rail employers see sense. We have always wanted to secure a negotiated settlement and that is what we will continue to push for in this next phase of intensive talks.
“Our priority is our members, and we are working towards securing a deal on job security, a decent pay rise and good working conditions. Our re-ballot remains live and if we have to take strike action during the next six months to secure a deal, we will.”
Special strike timetables will remain largely in place for Monday, but some operators plan to run more services than on Saturday and hope they will be back to normal by midweek.
The RMT said NR had originally declared discussions and consultations closed and was intent on imposing changes to maintenance without agreement with the union. It said: “They have now rowed back and will continue discussions on the basis that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”
“This takes away the reason for the current phase of action and means talks can continue without pre-conditions unilaterally set down by the company.”
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the suspension of the strikes was a “positive development”, adding: “We encourage unions and employers to continue their negotiations and calling off these strikes has given those talks a better chance of success.
“It is vital, for passengers and workers alike, that all parties continue to work together and deliver a modern railway we can all be proud of.”