UK’s largest rail union to stage strikes until 2023 after pay talks collapse

UK’s largest rail union to stage strikes until 2023 after pay talks collapse

Britain’s rail passengers and freight customers face disruption in the new year after the biggest transport union announced four 48-hour strikes and an overtime ban on Tuesday after talks with employers broke down.

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT, also said the union would seek to coordinate with others involved in workplace disputes.

“Workers in our class need a raise and we are determined to win that for our RMT members,” Lynch told reporters.

The announcement of the walkouts of December 13-14, 16-17 and January 3-4 and 6-7 dashed hopes of a resolution of the social movements underway since June. It comes a week after the RMT won a mandate to continue strikes for another six months.

The union is engaged in separate disputes with Network Rail and 14 rail operating companies to which the government has granted franchises.

The owner of Britain’s rail infrastructure has offered workers a 4% pay rise in 2022 and 2023, subject to workplace changes that would lead to 2,000 voluntary redundancies. Railway operations staff have been offered a 2% annual salary increase.

The overtime ban begins on December 18 and lasts until January 2. Lynch predicted that this would cause train staff shortages and serious problems for the planned holiday engineering work program.

The employers and the RMT began “intensive negotiations” this month aimed at ending the long-running dispute. But Lynch said while the union had been “reasonable”, reaching a deal had been made impossible by “the dead hand of the government”.

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT, said he was determined to secure a pay rise for members

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT, said he was determined to get a pay rise for members © Bloomberg

The RMT is also embroiled in a dispute with the London Underground over pay, job security and pensions. Aslef, the train drivers’ union, is organizing a 24-hour strike over pay at a series of train operators on 26 November.

The breakdown in talks follows a claim last week from the Communications Workers Union that Royal Mail had pulled out of negotiations after presenting staff with a ‘take it or leave it’ proposal.

Postal workers are expected to strike again this Thursday and Friday and organize new walkouts as Christmas approaches. They will be joined this week by staff from more than 150 universities in a row on salaries and pensions.

Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing, which had called on ministers to open formal talks on pay and patient safety by Tuesday, is preparing to announce dates for walkouts. Unison, which represents hundreds of thousands of NHS workers, will close its own strike ballot on Friday.

Lynch did not say which other groups the RMT planned to coordinate with, but said he was involved in talks with the TUC, the umbrella body for trade unions and individual unions.

Tim Shoveller, Network Rail’s chief negotiator, said further strikes would only deepen the industry’s “tight financial hole” and make it harder to resolve.

“We won’t give up and hope the RMT comes back to the table with a more realistic appreciation of the situation,” he said.

Calling on the union to resume talks, the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, said the dispute had cost the industry millions of dollars in lost revenue and stalled its post-pandemic recovery.

The Department of Transportation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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