Posted 28th April 2023 | No Comments

More rail strikes called for May and June after talks fail

► Negotiations between train operators and two rail unions have broken down again, and both the RMT and ASLEF have called more 24-hour strikes.

► RMT members at most English train operators are set to walk out on 13 May, while drivers belonging to ASLEF are due to strike on 12 and 31 May, and also on 3 June.

► The Rail Delivery Group said it had been ‘blindsided’, while transport secretary Mark Harper accused the RMT of ‘snubbing’ passengers.

There had been detailed discussions between the unions and the Rail Delivery Group, but without result.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘The RDG have reneged on their original proposals and torpedoed these negotiations.

‘No doubt their decision is due to pressure exerted on them by the Tory government.

‘Therefore, we have no alternative but to press ahead with more strike action and continue our campaign for a negotiated settlement on pay, conditions and job security.

‘We are re-balloting our members and if we beat the draconian anti-trade union laws on turnout, we will have a renewed mandate for action.

‘We will then put on a further programme of strike action to make the employers and the government who continue to hold the puppet strings, see sense in this dispute.’

Railnews understands that the RMT had been considering a new offer from the RDG, but that the union claims that its hands have been tied by the conditions surrounding a first year payment of 5 per cent, which would only be payable if the union then ‘terminated its industrial mandate’ – in other words, promised to stage no more industrial action when Stage 2 discussions had begun. The union said ‘discussions which are part of the offer made by the employer would then have to begin without the union having any industrial leverage at the negotiating table’.

Meanwhile, drivers belonging to ASLEF are set to strike on three days in May and June. ASLEF said: ‘Most of the drivers have not had a pay increase at all since 2019 and with inflation still well over 10 per cent and the cost of living spiralling, this is not acceptable.

‘Train drivers and ASLEF as a union are in favour of modernising the industry. We're keen to negotiate on a range of industrial issues that would make running the railway more efficient. Lots of modernisation and changes to how drivers work have already been agreed at different companies – everything from using tablet computers to Sundays being part of the standard working week. These agreements were made because negotiations took place in good faith and drivers were compensated fairly.’

It continued: ‘Drivers won't accept modernisation forced upon them with no compensation, and they won't accept a return to draconian Victorian conditions or being expected to work harder, for longer, for less. All workers deserve better than that.’

RDG chair Steve Montgomery said: ‘We are blindsided by the RMT executive’s announcement – nothing has changed in the offer agreed two weeks ago by the RMT leadership in the negotiating room.

‘The RMT are negotiating in bad faith, again denying their members a say on a fair pay deal, needlessly disrupting the lives of millions of our passengers, and undermining the viability of an industry critical to Britain’s economy.’

Transport secretary Mark Harper was also critical, saying: ‘Passengers have been forced to endure the RMT’s strike action for almost a year, yet the RMT executive is intent on continuing to force its members to lose even more pay. That’s despite having a best and final offer, similar to the pay offer their Network Rail members recently voted to overwhelmingly accept.

‘By yet again denying their members a chance to have a say, and then striking over the UK’s first Eurovision event in 25 years the RMT are simply further snubbing the very passengers they serve.’

The RMT strike on 13 May will coincide with the Eurovision final in Liverpool, which is being held on behalf of Ukraine.

The Rail Delivery Group said the ASLEF walkouts were ‘disappointing’. It continued: ‘More strike action is totally unnecessary and will only heap more pressure on an industry already facing an acute financial crisis. Senselessly targeting both the final of Eurovision and the FA cup final is disappointing for all those planning to attend.

‘After many weeks of negotiations with the ASLEF leadership today, we made a revised and fair offer including a pay rise of 8 per cent over two years. It would have introduced overdue, common-sense improvements already in place in parts of the network, which would will see more trains running on time for passengers. Sadly, this has been rejected.

‘We urge the ASLEF leadership to re-join us at the negotiating table and work with us to find a solution to the issues our industry faces and so we can give our people the pay rise we have always said we wanted to do.’