Train strikes until Xmas! Millions face travel misery as rail unions demand 7% pay hike

19 June 2022, 22:34 | Updated: 20 June 2022, 06:36

By Asher McShane

Last-ditch talks to avert the biggest rail strike in decades will go ahead on Monday as millions of commuters face the prospect of journeys disrupted by walkouts all the way up until Christmas.

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The country is braced for the biggest industrial action in a generation this week.

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), said that unions were not looking to compromise after negotiations with rail bosses failed to make progress.

He told the i newspaper that the public may have to expect disruption stretching beyond the summer.

The RMT says it has a ‘mandate’ for six months of industrial action, sparking fears of strikes all the way up until Christmas if the pay row isn't resolved.

Read more: Everything you need to know about the upcoming rail strike

According to the Telegraph, rail bosses are preparing for a war of ‘attrition’ that could last for months. They are reportedly planning to offer cash bonuses for signal workers to cross picket lines.

Pressure further mounted for a resolution to be reached as two key teaching unions announced they too are considering balloting members over strike action if a significant pay increase is not offered.

The National Education Union (NEU) said a letter will be sent to Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi on Wednesday saying the union is prepared to ballot its members if a pay rise more in line with inflation is not offered.

NASUWT leaders have also called for a 12% pay increase for teachers this year, and said it will ballot members in England, Wales and Scotland for industrial action if its demands are not met.

The RMT has defended pressing ahead with the series of strikes and called for a seven per cent pay rise in line with the rising costs of living.

Workers are set to walkout on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday this week, with more than 50% of the rail network shut in a row over pay and working conditions.

Half of Britain's rail lines will close completely during the strikes, with a reduced timetable in place from Monday through to Sunday.

The RMT said workers are striking as Network Rail is lining up 2,500 job cuts in rail maintenance, and they are striking over a pay freeze, demanding an increase in line with inflation.

Mr Lynch, general secretary of the RMT union, said they are "not asking for the world" as he defended their decision to strike.

He told Tom Swarbrick on Sunday it's about protecting workers' rights while big companies make eye-watering profits.

"Everybody is aware by now that we've got a threat to jobs, we want a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies. We've got the threat to working conditions - which is a really important part of this dispute - and we've got the pay issue which is ongoing," he said.

Read more: Union 'punishing millions' with next week's rail strike, transport secretary warns

"Most of our members haven't had a pay rise in two or three years - that includes Network Rail and the train operating companies.

"Our people are getting poorer while their jobs are under threat. And if you survive the jobs cull that they've got in mind your working conditions will be diluted and you'll be worse off."

Mr Lynch said his members have "no option" but to walk out this week - saying they've received no offer of a pay increase.

He said any pay deal should be linked to the Retail Price Index - the rate of inflation on goods and services.

The rate was pushed up to 11.1 per cent in April but Mr Lynch said union chiefs were pushing for a pay deal linked to talks in December, when it was at 7.1 per cent.

Read more: Minister calls on Mayor of London to drop congestion charge on rail strike days

He also claimed railway bosses were attempting to extend the 35-hour weeks for workers - resulting in lower pay deals.

He told Tom workers want to see a deal that reflects the cost of living as he claimed the working people have been "compressed like a spring" over the last 10/12 years.

"The duty of a trade union Tom, whether you like it or not, is to do the best for my people."

He said strikes could be avoided if they are offered an acceptable settlement within the next 48 hours.

Kevin Groves, chief spokesperson for Network Rail, told Tom earlier that the RMT had declined an offer of a three per cent pay increase.

Mick Lynch from the RMT.
Mick Lynch from the RMT. Picture: LBC

He said talks are ongoing but urged people not to travel next week unless absolutely necessary.

He claimed the industry is "basically broke" and the RMT "need to come to a realisation that their huge demands for massive pay rises is just completely unaffordable".

The RMT's strike action will take place across 13 train operators and Network Rail on Tuesday, Thursday and next Saturday. There will also be a London Underground strike on Tuesday.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has today accused rail union members of "punishing millions of innocent people" by pressing ahead with the strikes.

He said the RMT union had repeatedly been urged not to go ahead with the "damaging" strikes and instead concentrate on negotiating a deal.

He said: "Sadly they have ignored these requests time and again, and we are now on the cusp of major disruption which will cause misery for people right across the country."

Just 4,000 trains will run per day during the strikes, Mr Groves explained, compared to 20,000 on a normal day and the whole network will shut at 6.30pm on the three strike days.

Disruption will continue however, over the next seven days.

Rail strikes are set to cripple the network.
Rail strikes are set to cripple the network. Picture: Alamy

Shadow Levelling up Secretary Lisa Nandy said the Government has "set itself against working people" as she hit out at Grant Shapps for "telling people to get round the table when it's the Government who have taken it away".

The Labour MP for Wigan told Tom it feels reminiscent of the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher, "when you had a feeling that the Government wasn't just not interested in supporting you, but was actively working against you".

"I think Grant Shapps has some brass neck to be touring the TV studios this morning telling people to get round the table, when it's the Government that has taken away the table," she said.

"They haven't lifted a finger to get involved in the talks since the 8th of March and they're still refusing to do so - even though in 48 hours we are about to see our railways grind to a halt.

"The biggest problem is not that we've got militant workers in this country it's that we've got a militant government."