A resolution in the long-running rail dispute is further away, after a last-minute intervention from the Government in talks over pay, jobs and conditions, a union has claimed.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said it has heard from rail companies that there will be no revised offer from them, after being “instructed” by the Government instead to “take on” planned strikes next week.
The RMT said: “It is now absolutely clear that the Rail Delivery Group’s attempts to resolve the dispute by making a revised and improved offer have been blocked by the Government.
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“The companies know that RMT cannot, and never will, accept the implementation of driver-only operation (DOO) as a national principle for operating the railways.
“It is also clear that it is the Government itself, and not the RDG, that insisted that DOO was inserted in to the proposals on Sunday evening as a pre-condition, and the responsibility for the failure to progress proposals towards a resolution lies solely with the Government, who have torpedoed the dispute resolution process.
“The planned Industrial action for RMT train operating company members goes ahead as scheduled, as there is no resolution to the dispute and in fact a resolution is now further away due to the Government’s late intervention in the negotiating process.”
Steve Montgomery, chair of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “Regrettably, the RMT leadership’s refusal to put our proposed 8% pay offer to its membership means we are unable to reach a resolution at this stage, although we remain open to talks. With the deadline having passed where disruption could be avoided even if strikes were called off, our focus is on giving passengers the maximum possible certainty so they can make their festive plans.
“No one wanted to see these strikes go ahead, and we can only apologise to passengers and to the many businesses who will be hit by this unnecessary and damaging disruption.
“We continue to urge RMT leaders to put our proposals to their members rather than condemning them to weeks of lost pay either side of Christmas during a cost-of-living crisis.”
Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said: “The RMT has deliberately chosen to try and ruin Christmas for millions of passengers and businesses. They’re also intent on inflicting a monumental act of harm on an industry still desperate to recover from post-Covid challenges by sabotaging a vital £100 million programme of rail upgrades planned for Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
“The industry will do all it can to keep services running and projects on-track but serious disruption is inevitable given the RMT’s action.
“In talks over the months, we have sought to address all the RMT’s concerns by putting a decent pay rise on the table, guaranteeing a job for anyone that wants one, significantly raising base salaries for the lowest paid and offering a new, huge rail travel discount scheme for members, and their families. By any reasonable measure, we have put a fair deal on the table.”
The rail industry said it was working hard to keep a limited number of trains running during the coming strike action by the RMT, TSSA and Unite, but was warning passengers to expect “significant disruption” and to check before they travelled.
Passengers were being warned that even if the RMT called off strikes on December 12 following their membership referendum on an offer from Network Rail, it would be too late to reinstate services.
As a result, it was now “inevitable” that industrial action on December 13, 14, 16 and 17 would see around half of the network shut down, with around 20% of normal services running.
Rail passengers were being asked to only travel if it was absolutely necessary during this time, allow extra time and check when their first and last train would depart.