Christmas train strikes will have ‘minimal’ impact, Mick Lynch insists

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‘Don’t travel if you can avoid it’

The latest rail stoppage will hit 14 companies and Network Rail.

Passengers are being urged to only travel if necessary.

Services will start later and finish earlier, with some areas having no trains.

A meeting was held on Thursday but failed to break the deadlock.

The RMT said: “RMT attended talks convened by the rail minister Huw Merriman tonight (Thursday) including Network Rail and the Rail Delivery Group and agreed to further discussions.”

Mr Lynch said that the minister requested further talks between the RMT and the employers in order to find resolutions.

“These meetings will be arranged but, in the meantime, all industrial action remains in place,” he said.

Mr Merriman argued that there is “clearly an appetite amongst the workers themselves to strike a deal” after the TSSA union accepted a pay offer from Network Rail.

The walkout follows two days of RMT strikes on Tuesday and Wednesday and is the latest strike in a winter of woe for the Government, which is being blamed for a series of industrial disputes.

‘No new proposals on the table’

Mr Lynch said there are “no new proposals on the table” after talks convened by rail minister Huw Merriman on Thursday.

Speaking from the picket line at London Euston station, the union chief told Sky News: “We had an exchange about what might be possible and some ways forward and ideas that all the parties shared, and the rail minister requested that all the parties get down to some more discussions in the next period.

“We’ll look to arrange those meetings with the employers and see if we can develop some solutions to the issues that hopefully all the parties can support.

“But there are no actual negotiations; there are some soundings-out of what might be developed.

“So we’ll look forward to getting around the table with employers and work it up and see what we can do.

“But there are no new proposals on the table as we speak.”

He did, however, chime an optimistic note about the prospect of reaching a compromise that could avert further rail strikes.

Asked what it would take to call off next week’s walkouts, he told Sky News: “Resolutions to disputes are about compromises. We understand what the companies want and they understand what what we need.

“So we need some compromise on some of the conditions they’re putting on the offer and we’ll need an improvement in the pay offer. That is achievable, in my view.”

He added: “I know that there are some very simple steps that the employers and ourselves could take together to get a solution to this. That means a common-sense approach – both sides get into a position where there’s some commonly held positions.

“And I think we could do that in the next period. And if that is done very quickly, we can consider the industrial action going forward.”

Deal could be reached in a week

Mr Lynch suggested a deal in the dispute over pay and conditions could be reached “in the next week or so”, as he played down the impact of next week’s rail strikes on passengers.

He told Sky News from London Euston station: “We know that the public will be upset and even angry about the disruption. Some of that anger should be put towards the Government and the companies, we believe.

“But the disruption for people on the strike days that are actually happening at Christmas will be minimal.

“The railway shuts down on Christmas Eve in any case to do engineering works, so there aren’t scheduled trains on Christmas Day, nor on Boxing Day, and the railway curtails its activities early on Christmas Eve. That will be a little bit earlier than usual.

“But people have got time now to make plans. And I hope that they’re successful in that, and that we can progress these talks to maybe get some solutions in the next week or so.”

Asked if last night’s talks raise the chances of strikes being called off before Christmas, Mr Lynch said: “Well it’s better we are talking than not, so the rail minister convened a meeting last night with the RMT representatives along Network Rail and the train operators.

“We exchanged some ideas and some possibilities, there was no negotiations at that, nothing arising tangible out of that.

“But what he did having heard that as the facilitator, as they describe themselves and the people that ultimately own the purse strings, is he invited us and requested that we get together and hold further talks going forward and we’ll do that in the next period if the companies want to get engaged in it.”

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