Mick Lynch has hailed “positive” discussions with Transport Secretary Mark Harper, but has still vowed to press ahead with strikes over the festive period. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the Secretary General of the Rail and Maritime Workers Union said his conversation with Mr Harper was a “positive meeting in the sense that we’ve got rid of the bellicose nonsense that we’ve had from Grant Shapps and his cohort in his era and were not starting to get a dialogue.”
But when asked whether he would consider calling off the strikes which have been scheduled over Christmas following the positive meeting, Mr Lynch said: “We called the strikes off two weeks ago.
“We gave a two-week period where we were told we would get a tangible outcome. We would get commitments and proposals. We got none of that.
“You know, once bitten twice shy in that sense.
“We’ve also not had any strikes since the beginning of October. So there has been ample time for this lot to get their act together.”
Earlier this week, the RMT announced a series of 48-hour strikes in December and January after negotiations with the industry failed to reach an improved settlement.
It announced today that more than 40,000 members across Network Rail and 14 train operating companies will take strike action on December 13th, 14th, 16th and 17th and on January 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th.
The union also announced a ban on overtime from December 18th until January 2nd, meaning its members will be taking industrial action for 4 weeks.
The RMT alleged that the government is “directly interfering with our attempts to reach a settlement”.
Mr Lynch claimed it had been impossible to reach an agreement with the “dead hand” of the government “presiding over these talks”.
Speaking today, Mr Lynch said the RMT is “no closer” to reaching an agreement over the dispute.
He added: “We won’t be any closer until we have a reasonable offer that we can put to our members.”
Mr Lynch claimed the union has “complete support” from the public.
He told reporters: “We have complete support from our membership. We have complete support from the public, even the travelling public who are using the trains.”
Announcing the strikes, the RMT chief 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.
“The employers are in disarray and saying different things to different people, sometimes at the same time.
“This whole process has become a farce that only the new Secretary of State can resolve. When I meet him later this week, I will deliver that message.”
He added: “In the meantime, our message to the public is we are sorry to inconvenience you, but we urge you to direct your anger and frustration at the government and railway employers during this latest phase of action.”
Transport Secretary Mark Harper urged “all trade union leaders to get back around the table with employers” to avert a fresh round of rail strikes.
He told MPs he will “do everything I can to end these damaging and unnecessary strikes” ahead of planned meetings with trade union leaders.