GMB: Mick Lynch grilled on rail strikes
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Mick Lynch has denied being the “Grinch who stole Christmas” after the latest wave of train strikes were announced. Railway workers will down tools in the long-running dispute over jobs, pay and conditions on December 13, 14, 16 and 17 and on January 3, 4, 6 and 7.
But the RMT general secretary insisted the festive period had “deliberately” been left strike free as he was grilled during an appearance on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
Host Susanna Reid asked: “How are you not the Grinch who steals Christmas?”
Mr Lynch said: “Every day is sensitive, there’s no good time to have a strike. We’ve deliberately left the Christmas period strike free.
“We cannot leave this action to go cold. We’ve not been on strike for two months.
“We moved other dates to facilitate important public and national events. If we just leave it they’ll impose the changes.”
Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride this morning warned the fallout of the strikes would be “quite serious”, disrupting “family reunions” taking place over the festive period.
He told TalkTV: “The timing of these strikes are designed to create maximum disruption across the Christmas period.”
Mr Stride added that ministers will hold talks with rail union chiefs this week in a bid to persuade them to call off the industrial action.
He said: “The Secretary of State is actually meeting the rail union leaders later this week, so there is that dialogue occurring.
“The essential discussions have to occur between the rail operating companies, Network Rail and the unions, and they really should be engaging more on that and working things out between them more vigorously, in my view, than simply rushing off and going into strike action.”
More than 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union across Network Rail and 14 train operating companies will take part in the series of 48-hour strikes.
There will also be an overtime ban across the railways from December 18 until January 2, meaning RMT be taking industrial action for four weeks.
A statement yesterday said: “Despite every effort made by our negotiators, it is clear that the Government is directly interfering with our attempts to reach a settlement.
“The union suspended previous strike action in good faith to allow for intensive negotiations to resolve the dispute.
“Yet Network Rail have failed to make an improved offer on jobs, pay and conditions for our members during the last two weeks of talks.
“At the same time Rail Delivery Group, representing the train operating companies, have also broken a promise to make a meaningful offer on pay and conditions and even cancelled negotiations that were due to take place yesterday.”
Tim Shoveller, Network Rail’s chief negotiator, said: “No one can deny the precarious financial hole in which the railway finds itself. Striking makes that hole bigger and the task of finding a resolution ever more difficult.
“Only through reform, that will not result in anyone losing their job, can savings be made that can then be converted into an improved offer.
“While progress has been made over these last two weeks, we still have yet to find that breakthrough.
“We will not give up and hope that the RMT will return to the table with a more realistic appreciation of the situation.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Strike action risks putting the very future of the entire industry in jeopardy.
“These strikes are not only damaging the economy but they’re cutting off people in need of urgent care, children going to school and hardworking families.
“The rail industry is facing serious financial challenges and is in desperate need of vital reforms to address them.
“We once again urge union leaders to work with employers and come to an agreement which is fair for passengers, taxpayers and workers alike .”
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