The head of the RMT union warned on Thursday that passengers face an “indefinite” strike campaign on UK railways unless the government and industry reach a negotiated agreement with workers.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch wrote to Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, demanding that ministers intervene to end the long-running dispute over wages, employment practices and job security, in which only about a fifth of train services ran in Britain on Thursday.
The walkouts by RMT and TSSA members were the latest in a wave of industrial action that has hit the transport network this summer, as unions push for significant wage increases to help members cope with skyrocketing inflation, though negotiations have stalled.
Lynch accused the government of prolonging the dispute for political reasons and warned that “the dispute will drag on indefinitely” as private train operating companies were protected from loss of income on strike days.
The government took financial control of the railways in 2020, when the pandemic caused a sharp drop in passenger revenue, and has put the companies on new tightly controlled contracts, whereby they are paid to operate services.
“Your government has made the decision to use taxpayer money to bail out private railway companies from being responsible for lost revenue due to industrial action on the condition that the same companies comply with government instructions to keep railways low. wages, eliminate thousands of safety-critical rail jobs. Lynch wrote.
In response, the Transportation Department said unions should “get off the picket lines and come back to the bargaining table” to help end the strikes.
“Everything these strikes are doing is hurting the people the unions claim to represent, many of whom will again be out of money and forced to miss a day of work,” he added.
Thursday’s strikes marked the start of three days of industrial action across the public transport network.
RMT members will close swathes of London’s Tube and Overground networks on Friday when they strike for the fifth time this year in a separate pay and pension dispute with Transport for London, which operates the bus, train and tube network in the city. capital.
More than 1,600 London bus drivers are also walking out on Friday and Saturday in a pay dispute between the Unite union and bus operator London United, a subsidiary of France’s RATP.
RMT members on the rail network will stage a second 24-hour strike on Saturday.
Network Rail, which owns and operates the UK’s rail infrastructure, has offered both RMT staff and non-management staff at TSSA an 8 per cent pay rise for two years, subject to modernized working practices.
Some managers and supervisors within the TSSA this month agreed to a separate agreement for a 4 percent salary increase for one year.
Network Rail has said the average striking RMT member has so far lost more than £2,000 from the strikes and has called on RMT leaders to give members a vote on the proposed pay deal.
“We have put a very good deal on the table. . . but the RMT has refused to put that to a referendum,” Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, told the BBC on Thursday.