Rail strikes: Confrontational talks set as country comes to a standstill | industrial action

Union leaders, the railway minister and industry chiefs are set to face off tomorrow after industrial action over the rail network brought the country to a standstill for the second day in a row.

Only 20% of services were running as around 40,000 RMT members working for Network Rail and 14 rail operators went on strike for a second day. Another 48-hour strike is scheduled for Friday.

Rail passengers have been warned that trains will start much later than usual on Thursday, despite it being a non-strike day, with early trains much busier than usual due to disruptions to the strike.

Industrial action, combined with snow and freezing temperatures, has contributed to a dramatic drop in footfall in cities across the UK as businesses recovering from the pandemic desperately try to get their business back over Christmas.

Around 115,000 members of the Communications Workers Union (CWU) who work for Royal Mail also took part in further industrial action today and will also strike on December 15, 23 and 24, with pictures today showing d huge stacks of letters and parcels piled up outdoors. deposits.

Stacks of mail
Postal backlog at Royal Mail’s Bristol Filton office. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

Up to 100,000 nurse members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) will also take part in their first-ever industrial action on Thursday.

The RMT has confirmed that it will hold further talks with Railways Minister Huw Merriman on Thursday, as well as with rail operating companies and Network Rail.

Union General Secretary Mick Lynch said: “I commend the RMT members who have shown immense dignity and unflinching courage throughout this 48-hour strike. They have shown the importance of their work for the functioning of the economy and society at large.

“All they want is a negotiated job security settlement, a decent pay rise and good working conditions.”

Figures from retail analyst Springboard showed the impact of freezing temperatures and strikes on the High Street, with footfall on Tuesday – the first day of the rail strikes – 37% lower than on the same day in 2019.

In the UK, footfall fell by 26%, while footfall in shopping centers fell by 28% and retail parks by 9%.

The latest data from TomTom indicated that the strikes were also affecting the number of people getting into their cars, as congestion in major cities increased across the board. London saw a 10-15% increase.

Despite renewed talks between the RMT, railway bosses and the government, hopes are dim that another two-day strike on December 16-17 can be averted.

A ban on overtime at the train operator will also cause varying degrees of disruption until further strikes on January 3-4 and 6-7. Another strike will mainly affect engineering work from the end of Christmas Eve until 7 a.m. on December 27, while ongoing repair work will also affect remaining travel during the festive period.

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Further disruption is expected on the railway after Christmas, with the smallest union TSSA saying 700 members working for West Midlands Trains (WMT) and Great Western Railway (GWR) will strike on Wednesday December 28 in a pay dispute , jobs and conditions.

Elizabeth line workers, who are employees of Rail for London Infrastructure (RfLI), also voted overwhelmingly to strike. Prospect union members rejected a 4% pay offer for 2022 and said the offer was “well below the current rate of inflation”.

There have been signs of progress in other labor disputes as RMT members who work as security guards on Eurostar services called off planned strikes later this week. The workers, employed by contractor Mitie, were due to take industrial action on Friday and Sunday in a wage dispute.

RMT said it suspended strikes this week so that security personnel could vote in a referendum on Mitie’s latest bid. However, further strike action on December 22 and 23 will take place if the dispute is not resolved, the union said.

Mitie said wage negotiations with RMT were ongoing and contingency measures were in place to ensure Eurostar services were not affected.

Members of the Unite union who work for Network Rail in electrical control rooms have also called off planned industrial action and accepted an improved pay offer.

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines said: “RMT management needs to think long and hard about what to do next. Further strikes will cause more misery for the railway industry and for its members, who will lose their wages.

“This news is particularly frustrating, given that we learned today that colleagues represented by the Unite union have accepted the same offer offered to RMT members. The RMTs are the outliers here – they need to stop playing politics and work with us to end this conflict.

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