Rail strikes: Transport ministers must offer 'new money' to reach deal

RMT members on a picket line outside Euston station, in London. Credit: PA

Transport ministers must follow the example of their health department colleagues by offering "new money" in union negotiations, otherwise passengers will continue to face rail misery, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has said.

Mr Lynch was speaking as he joined workers on a rainy picket line at central London's Euston station on Saturday, as a walkout by 20,000 members across the country crippled services.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at 14 train operators will walk out.

The strikes will provide further disruption to train passengers as the dispute over jobs, pay and conditions rumbles on.

Several health service unions, including the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), have agreed to suspend industrial action, after the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) made a new pay offer.

Mr Lynch said ministers in the health service negotiations had shown a small "change in attitude" and Department for Transport (DfT) ministers must follow suit to avoid strikes planned for the end of March.

"We need a change in attitude. We've seen a bit of that in the health service and maybe in the teachers' unions," he said.

"The difference in that is there are no conditions, it's new money - but our members are expected to swallow vast changes to their working conditions and they're not prepared to do that to get a very modest, poor pay rise.

"In order to get something moving they'll have to take away some of the conditions they've put on this proposal, and we want some fresh money in the pay proposal, so we'll see what happens next week."

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union. Credit: PA

He added: "They've got 18 points that they want us to concede on our members' terms and conditions, their contract of employment, what they're paid and how they're rostered, how they do their work, what they get for sick pay, what they get for holiday pay, all sorts of things that are in a bundle as you'd expect, they want to dilute."

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: "RMT members at Train Operating Companies are being denied a say on their own future, while being forced to lose more pay through avoidable strike action.

"We urge the RMT's Executive to put the Rail Delivery Group's very fair offer to a democratic vote of their members, like it has on two separate occasions for RMT members working for Network Rail."

Passengers were last night being warned to check before they travel, with trains due to start later and finish much earlier than usual - typically between 7.30am and 6.30pm.

It is expected that nationally between 40% and 50% of train services will run, but there will be wide variations across the network, with no services at all in some areas.

Services may also be disrupted on Sunday morning because much of the rolling stock will not be in the right depots.

Football fans and families travelling to weekend leisure events will be among those affected.

RMT members went on strike on Thursday and more stoppages are planned on Thursday March 30 and Saturday April 1.

Tickets for both those dates can be used the day before, or up to and including Tuesday April 4.

The RMT said that more than 20,000 workers will be taking strike action unless there is a negotiated settlement.

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