‘Cynical’ union targets bank holiday as 20,000 rail workers go on strike
RMT’s Mick Lynch discusses a possible resolution to rail strikes
The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union has been blasted for staging a “cynical” strike that will disrupt rail services today (Saturday, August 26) during the busy bank holiday weekend.
Around 20,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at 14 train operators will walk out, crippling services across England, as part of the deadlocked dispute over pay, jobs and conditions. The latest stoppage in the row, now in its second year, comes as no progress has been made with rail operators, which the union says are “hamstrung” by the Government refusing to give them a mandate to make a revised pay offer.
However, the Government has hit back at the union – accusing it of “cynically targeting the bank holiday weekend” and “damaging its own industry’s future”.
Read more… Summer travel chaos – Motorists warned rail strikes will cause delays
The RMT is also planning a strike on September 2, while members of the drivers union Aslef are taking strike action on September 1, threatening days of disruption. The rail unions are also embroiled in a dispute over controversial plans to close railway ticket offices, which have also angered passenger groups and those representing elderly and disabled passengers.
More than 460,000 people have responded to a consultation on the plans and a protest is being held opposite Downing Street on August 31, a day before the consultation ends. Trains will start later on Saturday and finish earlier – and some areas will have no services.
The strike will affect those travelling to events such as the Notting Hill Carnival in London and the Reading and Leeds festivals. RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “The Government is not serious about settling this dispute which is leading to further disruption for passengers.
“Rail operators are not being given a mandate to make a new offer that we can put to members in a referendum to settle this dispute. Meanwhile, our campaign to save ticket offices will reach new levels with a rally outside Parliament on August 31, where we will tell ministers in no uncertain terms that ticket offices must be kept open and our communities preserved.
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“Our industrial campaign will continue as long as it takes to get a negotiated settlement, and to save as many ticket offices as possible. RMT members remain committed to winning a pay rise, securing their future employment and maintaining good working conditions.
“They have shown tremendous resolve in the face of a government that is playing politics and refusing to do a deal.”
Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said the dispute is now political and train drivers are determined to carry on taking industrial action. Some train firms have advised people to travel on Saturday only if necessary.
A Rail Delivery Group spokesperson said: “The industry will be working hard to keep as many services running as possible. There is no question the strikes called by the RMT and Aslef leaderships are deliberately designed to target passengers who want to enjoy various sporting events and festivals during the bank holiday, and at the end of the summer holidays, disrupting their plans, hurting local economies and forcing more cars on to the road.
“This, despite having the RMT having repeatedly refused their memberships a vote on offers of up to 13% for the lowest paid over two years, which could easily settle this dispute. There will unfortunately be some reduced services on August 26, Friday and September 1 and 2. As the level of service varies across the country, our advice is to check before you travel and follow the latest travel information, and passengers with advance tickets can be refunded fee-free if the train that the ticket is booked for is cancelled, delayed or rescheduled.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The Government has played its part to try and end these disputes by facilitating fair and reasonable pay offers, but union leaders refuse to allow their members to vote on them.
“By cynically targeting the bank holiday weekend, and driving more passengers away from train travel when our railways are already losing £10 million a day even without industrial action, the RMT’s strikes are damaging its own industry’s future.”
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