The leader of the largest railway workers’ union has called for an urgent meeting with the prime minister in a bid to help resolve the longstanding dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union are due to stage two 48-hour strikes next week after months of industrial action over the row of deadlocks.
In a letter to Rishi Sunak, RMT union leader Mick Lynch said a meeting between the two men was now the best way forward.
Lynch said that based on press reports, Transport Secretary Mark Harper’s appearance in the Transport Committee this week and what he was told directly by Rail Delivery Group negotiators, it is clear that number 10 is “leading the mandate of railway companies and has torpedoed the talks’.
He wrote: ‘There is no reason why this dispute cannot be resolved in the same way that RMT has resolved disputes in Scotland and Wales.
“Where the Scottish and Welsh governments have had mandate responsibility, pay deals have been agreed for 2022 and none of these deals have been conditional on reducing staff and eroding safety and accessibility.
‘It is already a national scandal that your government has been paying the train operating companies not to settle the dispute, awarding them £300m so they have no incentive to come to a resolution.
He added: ‘It is not clear to me why, in addition to this, your government has now torpedoed the negotiations, but I now believe that a meeting with you represents the best prospect of any renewed progress.
We have a duty to explore all possible options to resolve this dispute, and I am willing to do my part. I hope you agree to meet with me.
A government spokesman said: ‘It is incredibly disappointing that despite a new and improved agreement offering job security and a fair wage increase, the RMT continues to hold Christmas hostage with more damaging strikes.
“The Government has played its part in facilitating a fair and decent offer, and the RMT and its members should approve this deal and put an end to this damaging disruption.”
Network Rail has warned passengers that services will be limited, crowded or canceled until at least January 8, as RMT union members will be on strike for 11 days over the Christmas season.
Conservative MP David Jones said: “Unions should consider that by seeking such high wage deals they will not only fuel inflation but also make Christmas miserable at best and dangerous at worst.”
The RMT will shut down the railways in two 48-hour strikes on Tuesday and Friday, destroying millions’ plans for the weekend before Christmas and costing the streets hundreds of millions of pounds.
Services will be disrupted every day for at least a month, Network Rail warned commuters last night.
In addition, an unprecedented overtime ban on train operating personnel, which will run from December 18 to January 2, will result in thousands more cancellations.