The RMT union has confirmed that its members will stage a series of walkouts in late 2022 and early 2023 after talks with rail bosses collapsed.
The union had previously warned that strike action was “highly likely” after its members voted overwhelmingly in favour of further action. General secretary Mick Lynch said that the union had been left no choice after Network Rail and 14 train operating companies failed to make any new offer on pay and conditions.
More than 40,000 RMT members have staged a series of nationwide strikes over the past six months in the bitter dispute over pay, pensions and working conditions. A ballot earlier this month gave the union a mandate for another six months of action, raising the prospect of industrial action up until May 2023.
The latest strikes escalate the action to a series of four 48-hour walkouts in late December and early January and a ban on overtime over the Christmas and New Year period. They are expected to have a similar impact to previous strikes which saw half of all rail lines shut down and 80% of services cancelled.
When will the next train strikes be?
The first 48-hour strike will be held on Tuesday 13 and Wednesday 14 December, followed by repeat action on Friday 16 and Saturday 17 December. The close proximity of the action means services are likely to be badly disrupted on Thursday 15 as well, although there is no official action planned.
Unless a resolution is reached, RMT members will then stage two more 48-hour strikes on Tuesday 3-Wednesday 4 January 2023, and Friday 6-Saturday 7 January. Between the two blocks of strikes workers are also expected to observe a ban on overtime working. This will run from Sunday 18 December until Monday 2 January and is likely to mean a reduced service throughout the Christmas period.
The train drivers’ union Aslef is also re-balloting its members on further strike action. It has staged a series of walkouts and recently announced plans for another 24-hour strike on Saturday 26 November that will affect 11 compaines. Here’s a list of affected services. A yes vote by its members would also give it a mandate for further strikes over the next six months.
Why has the RMT announced more strikes?
The union claims that rail bosses have broken promises to bring a new offer on pay and conditions to negotiations and has accused the government of blocking a settlement. It said that it had suspended strikes in November in “good faith” to allow negotiations but had been left with no choice but to stage further strike action.
In a statement it said: “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.”
What have rail bosses said?
Representatives of the rail industry warned that the strikes would cause incovenience to millions of passengers over the busy festive period.
A Rail Delivery Group spokesman 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. 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.”