UK’s biggest rail union to strike until 2023 after pay talks collapse

UK rail passengers and freight customers face disruption in the New Year after the biggest transport union announced four 48-hour strikes and a ban on overtime on Tuesday after talks with employers collapsed.

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

“The people in our department need a raise and we are determined to win that for our members in the RMT,” Lynch told reporters.

The announcement of walkouts on December 13-14, 16-17, and January 3-4 and 6-7 gives hope for the action that has been going on since June. It comes a week after the RMT was given the authority to continue the strikes for another six months.

The union is in separate disputes with Network Rail and 14 government-franchised train operating companies.

The owner of Britain’s rail infrastructure has offered workers a 4 percent pay rise in both 2022 and 2023, subject to workplace changes that would lead to 2,000 voluntary redundancies. Train operators were offered a 2 percent annual wage increase.

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The ban on overtime work starts on December 18 and lasts until January 2. Lynch predicted that this would lead to train staff shortages and serious problems with the engineering work schedule scheduled for the holiday period.

Employers and the RMT this month began “intensive negotiations” aimed at ending the long-running dispute. But Lynch said that while the union “made sense,” the deal was made impossible by the “dead hand of the government.”

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said he was determined to win a pay rise for members

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said he was determined to win a pay rise for members © Bloomberg

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

The breakdown in talks follows last week’s claim by the Communications Workers Union that Royal Mail walked away from negotiations after a take-it-or-leave-it proposal was put to staff.

Postal workers will strike again on Thursday and Friday, and there will be more work stoppages before Christmas. They will be joined this week by the employees of more than 150 universities in a row regarding salaries and pensions.

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

Lynch did not specify which groups the RMT planned to coordinate the action with, but said it was involved in talks with the TUC, the trade union umbrella organization and individual unions.

Network Rail chief negotiator Tim Shoveller said the new strikes would only add to the industry’s “precarious financial hole” and make it harder to find a solution.

“We are not giving up and hope the RMT will come back to the table with a more realistic assessment of the situation,” he said.

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, has called for the union to return to talks, saying the dispute has cost the sector millions in lost revenue and stalled the post-pandemic recovery.

The Ministry of Transport did not immediately respond to the comment.