The leader of the biggest rail workers union has called for an urgent meeting with the Prime Minister in a bid to help resolve the long-running dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) are due to stage two 48-hour strikes next week following months of industrial action over the deadlocked row.
In a letter to Rishi Sunak, RMT union leader Mick Lynch said a meeting between the two men was now the best way of making progress
Mr Lynch said that from press reports, Transport Secretary Mark Harper’s appearance at the Transport Committee this week and from what he has been directly told by the Rail Delivery Group’s negotiators, it is clear that No 10 is ‘directing the mandate for the rail companies and has torpedoed the talks’.
He wrote: ‘There is no reason why this dispute could not be settled in the same way that RMT has resolved disputes in Scotland and Wales.
‘Where the Scottish and Welsh governments have had responsibility for mandates, pay settlements for 2022 have been agreed and neither of these settlements have been conditional on cutting staffing, and eroding safety, security and accessibility.
‘It is already a national scandal that your government has been paying the train operating companies not to settle the dispute, indemnifying them to the tune of £300 million so that they have no incentive to reach a resolution.
He added: ‘It’s not clear to me why, on top of this, your government has now torpedoed the negotiations, but I now believe that a meeting with yourself represents the best prospect of any renewed progress.
‘We have a duty to explore every possible option for settling this dispute and I’m willing to do my part. I hope you will agree to meet me.’
A Government spokesperson said: ‘It’s incredibly disappointing that, despite a new and improved deal offering job security and a fair pay rise, the RMT continues to hold Christmas hostage with more damaging strikes.
‘The Government has played its part by facilitating a fair and decent offer and the RMT and its members should vote this deal through and end this harmful disruption.’
Network Rail has warned passengers that services will be limited, overcrowded or cancelled until at least January 8 as RMT union members strike for 11 days over the holiday season.
Conservative MP David Jones said: ‘The unions should consider that by going for such hefty pay settlements, they will not only stoke inflation but also make Christmas miserable at best, and dangerous at worst.’
The RMT will shut down the railways in two 48-hour strikes from Tuesday and Friday, destroying the plans of millions for the weekend before Christmas and costing high streets hundreds of millions of pounds.
Services will be disrupted every day for at least a month, Network Rail warned travellers last night.
Additionally, an unprecedented overtime ban for train operating staff, running from December 18 until January 2, will result in thousands more cancellations.