Transport secretary to hold talks with rail union leaders amid future strike action

Transport Secretary Mark Harper will hold talks with rail union leaders later this week, according to his cabinet colleague Mel Stride.

The Work and Pensions Secretary said TalkTV: “Secretary of State [Mark Harper] in fact he is meeting with the leaders of the railway union later this week, so the dialogue is happening.”

Stride also warned that strike action planned on the country’s railways in December and January was designed to cause “maximum disruption”.

The RMT union yesterday announced a series of 48-hour strikes in December and January as part of a long-running dispute with the government over pay, work and conditions.

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The announcement came as the union accused rail bosses of reneging on a promise to present a written offer at the end of two weeks of negotiations.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said the union must respond to “broken promises” by senior officials.

Thousands of RMT members working for Network Rail and fourteen train operating companies will walk off the job on December 13-14 and 16-17, as well as January 3-4 and 6-7.

The union also announced a ban on overtime over the Christmas period from December 18 to January 2.

talking to Talking TVMel Stride said: “What we need is more talking from unions to employers and less strike announcements … the consequences of this for families up and down the country, some of which are quite serious incidentally, people trying to get to medical appointments. For example, the family meetings you mentioned whom.

Also speaking to the media this morning, Lynch defended the timing of the planned rail strikes.

He said in response to the accusation that he looked like “The Grinch” who ruined Christmas ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme: ‘There’s never a good time to be on holiday. We deliberately left the Christmas holiday free.

“We cannot let this movement go cold. We are not on vacation for two months, we have moved other dates to facilitate important public and nationwide events.

“If we leave it, they will implement the changes. Network Rail has already given statutory redundancy notices for 3,000 jobs and if we don’t resist what they’re doing and compromise, they will.”

Mel Stride also said Sky News although no timetable is set in legislation, the government undertakes to set a minimum level of service during transport workers’ strikes.

The Work and Pensions Secretary said: “The Government has responsibilities in this area and around minimum service delivery.”