Gap still exists between sides in rail disputes

A wide gap still appears to exist between rail unions and management, which was revealed when both sides gave evidence to the House of Commons Transport Committee.

Tim Shoveller, who has been leading the negotiations for Network Rail, said fewer RMT members have been supporting the most recent strikes.

‘The strikes have been underway now for a very long period of time, but we have absolutely seen in the last sets of strikes, just before and then especially after Christmas, that there has been a return to work by a number of employees, both in maintenance and operations. It’s very localised; it tends to be groups of people which will come back in, rather than individuals on their own, but there is clearly a pattern we can see emerging,’ he said.

He told the Committee that the chances of a settlement with the RMT were ‘seven out of ten’, but earlier in the session ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan had said that there was currently a ‘zero chance’ of coming to an agreement with the train operators over drivers.

The unions accused the government of ‘sabotaging’ negotiations, and warned that their members would not agree to a settlement which combined changes to their conditions of employment with effective cuts in pay when inflation was taken into account.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘I want a green railway which is at the centre of a green revolution, that we decarbonise and deliver Kyoto, Oaris and whatever. What we are currently seeing, unfortunately, isn’t modernisation – it’s a pure productivity grab of a wish list of all the things that various companies could not achieve in the last two and a half decades.’

Rail Delivery Group chair Steve Montgomery said: ‘We have to put proposals forward to government using our expertise in areas of reform, that we can then put forward as a sensible proposal which government ultimately does sign off, to give us the mandate.’

The Rail Delivery Group is holding further discussions with the RMT and TSSA today, and the RMT will also be talking to Network Rail next week.

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