Union presses Government for summit to end rail strikes ‘chaos’
The leader of the biggest rail workers’ union has called for a special summit to tackle the “chaos” in the industry amid escalating strikes.
Passengers suffered fresh travel misery on Saturday as members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) walked out in a long-running dispute over pay and conditions.
The strike, on the day of the final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool, followed a stoppage by train drivers on Friday which crippled services across England.
Merseyrail is not affected by the industrial action and is expected to run a normal service during the Eurovision finale.
Drivers’ union Aslef is planning further strikes and warned that the dispute is set to continue for months.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has written to Transport Secretary Mark Harper to call for an industry summit of unions, employers and Government, with an independent chair if necessary, to end “chaos“ on the railways and resolve the “toxic“ rail dispute.
The union said that in written evidence to MPs, representatives of train operating companies involved in the dispute spelled out that legislation on minimum levels of service during walkouts could lead to more strikes and cancellations.
Mr Lynch wrote: “On Thursday the Government was forced to bring the TransPennine Express franchise into public ownership after months of significant disruption and regular cancellations.
“It’s clear to us and the wider public that private train operation is failing.
Read the letter to @Mark_J_Harper here;https://t.co/zksfQ3DoSr
— RMT (@RMTunion) May 13, 2023
“However, the actions of your Government, up to this moment, have compounded this failure tenfold, creating chaos on our railways, not least in the management of the rail dispute which threatens to do lasting damage to the rail industry.
“While we have reached agreements for rail workers with the Scottish and Welsh governments your Government’s management of the dispute is set to plunge our railways into even more and worse disruption for months to come.
“Instead of facilitating a resolution, your Government has repeatedly torpedoed negotiations. Instead of bringing management and unions together, you are driving a deeper wedge between them.”
There will be more train services on Saturday than on Friday but many companies are restricting their number of routes and hours of operation.
Passengers were again urged to check before they travel on Saturday.
RMT members mounted picket lines outside railway stations, and the union insisted it continued to receive strong support from the public.
A Rail Delivery Group spokesperson said: “While we are always open to dialogue, the only summit the RMT need is between its negotiating team and its executive committee.
“Time and time again they have blocked the deal negotiated line by line by its top team from going out to its membership for a vote, with frontline losing out on a pay rise of up to 13% as a result.
“It’s time the union leadership and executive finally agreed on what they want from these negotiations.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Since coming into office, ministers have met with the RMT leadership four times and helped facilitate three fair pay offers from employers.
“It’s now time for unions to give their members a democratic say on their future.”