Union bosses accuse ministers of showing 'lack of urgency' on strikes

Union bosses accuse ministers of showing an ‘astonishing lack of urgency’ to prevent Christmas rail strikes

  • The RMT has called four 48-hour strikes between December 13 and January 7
  • Its boss Mick Lynch said his next meeting with ministers was not until Friday
  • Rail bosses warned of ‘unprecedented festive disruption’ if pay deal isn’t struck 

Union chiefs yesterday accused ministers of an ‘astonishing lack of urgency’ over talks to avert Christmas rail strikes.

RMT boss Mick Lynch said his next meeting with ministers was not taking place until Friday – more than a week after he last met them.

He said that left only days to reach a deal to avoid chaos. The RMT has called four 48-hour strikes between December 13 and January 7 in its dispute over jobs, pay and conditions.

In a letter to business groups and the hospitality industry, Mr Lynch wrote: ‘I have today received a letter from him [Transport Secretary Mark Harper], offering a joint meeting with the rail minister, the employers and RMT this Friday. Whilst I have accepted the offer, this lack of urgency from the Government is astonishing.’

RMT boss Mick Lynch said his next meeting with ministers was not taking place until Friday – more than a week after he last met them

He warned: ‘Time is running out.’ Fourteen train firms are yet to make a pay offer because they have not been given a negotiating mandate by Mr Harper. Industry sources said the deadline for avoiding disruption is midnight on Monday because ‘strike timetables’ will be finalised on Tuesday.

Rail bosses yesterday warned of ‘unprecedented festive disruption’ if a pay deal isn’t struck within days.

Network Rail’s director of operations, Jake Kelly, said: ‘The RMT is going to inflict on our country, our passengers and our industry an unprecedented and sustained period of rail disruption across the entire festive period that will have a massive impact on businesses and our economy.

He said that left only days to reach a deal to avoid chaos. The RMT has called four 48-hour strikes between December 13 and January 7 in its dispute over jobs, pay and conditions

‘The rail industry is already well advanced in its planning and will do all it can to run as many services as it can across the Christmas and New Year period.

‘But passengers need to be prepared for weeks of disruption as a result of the RMT’s chosen course of action.’

Industry sources say the deadline for avoiding disruption is midnight on Monday because ‘strike timetables’ for the walkout beginning on December 13 will be finalised on Tuesday.

Mr Harper wrote to Mr Lynch saying he ‘can see scope for agreement’.

His letter pledged ‘better information sharing’ between his Department and rail and union bosses so that talks ‘can speed up’.

But he has faced criticism for not being more proactive in the talks and taking a softer tone with the unions compared to his predecessor-but-one Grant Shapps, who pledged a raft of new anti-strike laws.

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