Mick Lynch has said strikes by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) “will remain on” until the union gets a “tangible outcome” following what he described as a “positive meeting” with the Department for Transport.
The RMT general secretary met with Transport Secretary Mark Harper today for talks about the union’s ongoing dispute over pay and conditions. The union announced on Tuesday that members would take part in a series of 48 hour walkouts over the next two months.
The RMT revealed earlier this month that it was cancelling strikes due to take place on November 5th, 7th and 9th and was entering “a period of intensive negotiations” with Network Rail and rail operators. But it said on Tuesday Network Rail had failed to make an “improved offer on jobs, pay and conditions”.
Speaking to journalists following today’s meeting, Lynch said: “We called the strikes off two weeks ago. We gave a two week period – it’s gone past that now, it’s nearly two and a half weeks – where we were told we would get a tangible outcome, we would get commitments and proposals. We got none of that.”
“We’ve also not had any strikes since the beginning of October, so there’s been ample time for this lot to get their act together, along with their industry partners,” the union leader added.
He said the meeting with Harper was “positive” and the parties were “starting to get a dialogue”, adding: “We’ve got rid of the bellicose nonsense that we used to have from [former Transport Secretary] Grant Shapps and his cohort.”
Lynch said Harper had committed to sending him a letter after the meeting setting out “how he sees us going forward” towards a resolution. He told journalists that the RMT wants the Transport Secretary “to set down in writing” what he plans to do “about the mechanics of how a resolution will be facilitated”.
He argued: “If we call off the strikes, we’ll never get a settlement. We did that two weeks ago. We’ve changed our dates in response to public opinion.” Following the death of the Queen in September, the RMT announced that two days of strike action scheduled for later in the month would be suspended.
Lynch said today: “We have not had a strike for seven weeks. And nothing has happened. So anyone that’s been involved in industrial relations knows that there’s got to be leverage and pressure at the table from both sides and that will create the compromises and the resolution that we’re all looking for.”
“I’ve given a commitment to my members. Until we get a tangible outcome that they can consider, the action will remain on,” he added.
Harper said following the meeting: “We have common ground – we both want the dispute to end and we both want a thriving railway which delivers for passengers and workers alike. To achieve this though, we need to work together, across the entire industry to ensure our railway industry thrives.
“There is a deal to be done, and I believe we will get there – I want to facilitate the RMT and the employers to reach an agreement and end the dispute for the benefit of the travelling public.”
The RMT’s latest strike announcement follows widespread action across the UK’s rail network over the summer. 80% of train services were stopped during three days of industrial action by RMT members in June.
Approximately one in five trains across half of the rail network were thought to have been running on July 27th after members of the RMT and the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) went on strike.