Transport secretary Mark Harper has argued that the “tide is turning” against the rail unions in the long-running dispute over pay, as a fresh wave of rail disruption began on Tuesday morning.
About 40,000 workers members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) will go on strike from Tuesday, beginning two 48-hour strikes at Network Rail and 14 train companies this week. This is part of a first wave of strike action from the union this month.
In total, the RMT have scheduled 12 strike dates across December and January, designed to disrupt the festive period.
“Due to industrial action, there will be significantly reduced train services across the railway from Tuesday 13 December until Sunday 8 January,” said Network Rail in a statement to customers.
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This comes as the RMT voted to reject the latest pay offer.
The RMT said 63.6 per cent voted to reject Network Rail’s offer on an 83 per cent turnout.
Its general secretary Mick Lynch said: “This is a huge rejection of Network Rail’s substandard offer and shows that our members are determined to take further strike action in pursuit of a negotiated settlement.
“We will resist that and our members, along with the entire trade union movement will continue their campaign for a square deal for workers, decent pay increases and good working conditions.”
Mr Harper argued this morning that many union workers believe that the union should accept the “fair and reasonable” pay offer which has been made.
He told GB News: “It is interesting in their ballot yesterday only just over half of their workforce actually rejected it, almost 40 per cent of their workforce, even with a very clear instruction from their union leadership, actually voted in favour of it.
“So I think the tide is turning on people seeing that the offers we have made are reasonable, taking into account both the travelling public but also the interests of taxpayers”.
In an interview with Sky News, Mr Harper added: “There isn’t a bottomless pit of money to go into the rail industry”.
The RMT has held a series of strikes since June in an increasingly bitter dispute with Network Rail. The RMT general secretary, Mick Lynch, said it was a “huge rejection of Network Rail’s substandard offer and shows that our members are determined to take further strike action in pursuit of a negotiated settlement”.
Network Rail has urged passengers to find other ways to travel and for those who must travel by train to plan ahead and check with operators for the latest information on services.