Mick Lynch: RMT leader says unions continue to get 'tremendous support' on a visit to Wales

RMT Union leader Mick Lynch has said his organisation has a "tremendous level of support" despite strikes causing disruption to many rail passengers across the UK.

Mr Lynch made the comments during a cost of living rally in Aberdare, in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

A fresh round of strikes by the RMT are scheduled for Wednesday 1 February as the union continues to be in dispute with the UK Government over pay and working conditions.

During the rally at St Elvan's Church, Mr Lynch said it was important unions secured a fair pay deal from the government.

"We are getting a tremendous level of support" he said.

"Many people support us. We understand the frustration of course when you can't get to work, when you can't go about your social life and your business life, we get that.

"But we also understand this Tory government has sacrificed a billion pounds to fight this strike and what we were looking for was a realistic pay settlement, job security and to protect our conditions, which many working people want because they've had those butchered.

"We want to get back to work, we want to get Wales and Britain moving and if we can do that on an decent basis we can move forward.

"Many of our members are in very modest wages, starting at £17,000, the vast majority of our people are earning under £32,000 - three quarters of them earn less than £32,000, that's for shift work seven days a week, around the clock."

Mr Lynch was also asked whether it was fair for train drivers to receive a pay increase, which according to the Rail Delivery Group currently stands at £60,000 and would increase to £65,000 under a recent pay rise offer.

"The media swallows the government line of pushing out these numbers about train drivers - train drivers are a minority of workers on the railway.

"Many [other staff] work in other occupations that are really modestly paid and the proposals that we've got are about those people and it's not really up for the mark of where inflation needs to be and where these pay settlements need to be at this time."

The Rail Delivery Group has said it has now made its "best and final offer" to the RMT union, including a pay rise of 9% over two years.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: "These strikes have gone on for far too long and this is a step in the right direction.

"This fair and reasonable offer guarantees employees a pay rise in line with the private sector and no compulsory redundancies, while delivering the reforms needed to address the long-term challenges facing the industry."

More strike action is scheduled by the RMT for 1st February. Credit: PA

The proposals are now set to be considered by the union's National Executive Committee (NEC) and, if accepted, could bring an end to a bitter dispute which has seen a wave of strike action taken by rail workers in recent months.

According to the RMT, the offer includes "detailed documentation covering a range of issues" and will "require serious and careful consideration".

It added that proposals on pay and job security are "directly conditional on cost savings and alterations to contractual terms, entitlements, and working practices".

In a wider reference to many struggling with the cost of living crisis, Mr Lynch said:

"A lot is bubbling up in response largely to a longterm cost of living crisis because many people haven't had a pay rise for ten or twelve years now, measured against inflation and there's been austerity which hasn't really stopped since George Osborne got elected.

"That's been locked into our economy and these communities, working class communities are really feeling the long term effects of that and I think they're sick and tired of it."

"An extremely unequal society"

Beth Winter, the MP for the Cynon Valley who helped organise the rally, agreed with Mr Lynch that public opinion is not starting to wane when it comes to industrial action.

"The cost of living crisis is having a devastating impact on so many people in our communities, the fightback must continue.

"So many of our communities work in the public sector and in the rail industry or as postal workers and I've been on picket lines with all of them and the public support is there for the trade unions and the workers and they deserve an inflation-proof pay rise.

Ms Winter added that the cost of living crisis and the struggle for people to pay their bills is causing an "extremely unequal society"

In response to supporting people through the cost of living crisis, A UK Government spokesperson has said:

"We recognise the pressures of the rising cost of living which is why we have delivered £1,200 of direct help to those most in need this financial year, including £400 towards energy costs.

"Our Energy Price Guarantee is saving around £900 for a typical household over winter and our Household Support Fund is helping people with essential costs.

"The most vulnerable households will also receive up to £1,350 in additional direct support in 2023/24 and benefits will be increased in line with inflation at 10.1% from April."

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