Rail union boss Mick Lynch claims strikes have been ‘a success'
The leader of Britain’s biggest rail union insisted strikes lasting almost a year have been “a success” despite no pay deal being agreed.
Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union general secretary Mick Lynch made the claim as passengers suffer fresh disruption on Friday due to another walkout.
Only around half of normal services are running due to the strike by RMT members at most train companies in England.
Speaking from a picket line outside London Euston station, Mr Lynch declared that walkouts in the row over jobs, pay and conditions have prevented plans being implemented that would have negatively affected the railway.
He said: “We’ve pushed them back on all the stuff they wanted to do.
“They wanted to make thousands of our people redundant, they wanted to shut every booking office in Britain, restructure our engineering workers, cut the catering service.
“So we’ve pushed them back on that, they haven’t been able to implement any of their plans.
“What we haven’t got is a pay deal, we haven’t got any guarantees on our members’ futures but we have stopped them doing the worst aspects of their proposals and their ideas.
“It has been a success, our members are still with us, they’ve had three ballots to continue with the strike action under the law.
“Other people seem to have been inspired to fight back and take action in their own industries, so it has been a success and it’s put trade unions back on the map in Britain.”
A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents train operators, said: “The RMT leadership must recognise the way our passengers use the railway has changed for good, and work with us to adapt so we can secure the long-term future of an industry.
“The only thing they have achieved is continuing to take money out of their members’ pockets, inflicting misery on thousands of people and damaging an industry which is vital to Britain’s economy and their own members’ livelihoods.
“We urge the RMT leadership to engage seriously with the financial challenges the industry faces, agree between them what they want from the negotiation and come back to the table, so we can resolve this dispute for the sake of everyone who relies on the railway.”
He added: “There have been three pay deals offered which the RMT executive have reneged despite their negotiators in the room agreeing the terms.
“We’ve said all along we just want railway workers to have their say on the fair and affordable offer of up to a 13% rise over two years, plus guarantees on job security.”
The unions say they have not been given a pay offer they can recommend to their members.
Members of the drivers’ union Aslef walked out on Wednesday and will strike again on Saturday in their dispute over pay.
General secretary Mick Whelan told the PA news agency there is “no waning in enthusiasm” from train drivers to continue taking industrial action.
“We are determined to get a resolution and remain in this for the long haul.
“It is time for the Government to step back from interference which is preventing a deal – drivers, in line with other workers, deserve a pay rise after four years without one and inflation running, over the last 12 months, north of 10%,” he said.
The RDG said around 40% of trains will run on Saturday but there will be wide regional variations with some operators shut down.
Passenger Adam Hole, a 36-year-old jeweller travelling from Euston to Manchester on Friday, said: “We’ve had to get an earlier train and we’re not sure if it’s even going to be going there, to be honest.
“I’m very frustrated, I don’t know the ins and outs of it but it’s frustrating for everyone else.”
Another passenger at Euston, cleaning supervisor Josue Arcadona, 36, said: “At some point (the workers) have to fight for what they want, even though it can affect all of us. It’s OK, I support them.”
He added: “I think it might go on for one more year, or something like that. If they get their pay rise then good for them.”
The industrial action will affect football fans travelling to London for the FA Cup Final between Manchester City and Manchester United on Saturday at Wembley Stadium.
Fans wishing to travel to the game by train from Manchester are advised not to attempt to do so on the day.
Saturday’s strike will also affect more than 100,000 people travelling to the annual Epsom Derby as well as fans travelling to Beyonce’s Renaissance world tour concert at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and cricket fans travelling to watch the England v Ireland Test match at Lord’s.
Union officials say support for industrial action remains strong among workers as well as the public.
Aslef says train drivers have not had a pay rise for four years.
Both unions claim the Government is preventing the train companies from making an acceptable offer, which ministers deny.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “The Government has facilitated a fair and reasonable pay offer; now union leaders must do the right thing and put this to their members.”