‘The RMT are ruining Christmas’: MPs slam union baron Mick Lynch after he announced MORE strikes

MPs have slammed RMT union baron Mick Lynch for ‘ruining Christmas’ after he sparked further festive chaos by announcing more strikes from December 24 to 27, in new wave of walkouts to cripple train services this winter.

Former levelling-up secretary Simon Clarke called the decision ‘dreadful’, while Transport Secretary Mark Harper dubbed it ‘disappointing’.

Union boss Mr Lynch announced the additional dates this evening, and reaffirmed the strikes in January.

‘I am sure the travelling public will be really disappointed and irritated and angry,’ Mr Lynch said at a press conference. 

But he added that ‘there has been no improved offer presented to his union’ and that they have ‘no choice’ as the current offer is ‘extremely detrimental’. 

Mr Harper said: ‘It’s incredibly disappointing that, despite a new and improved deal offering job security and a fair pay rise, the RMT is not only continuing with upcoming industrial action but has called more strikes over Christmas.

‘The Government has played its part by facilitating a fair and decent offer but, by instructing its members to reject it, the RMT has failed to play its part and our rail network now faces more harmful disruption rather than helpful discussion.’

Mr Clarke tweeted: ‘This is dreadful by the RMT – ruining people’s Christmases with an eight per cent pay rise over two years on the table (and no compulsory redundancies). 

‘The railway received £16 billion — £600/household — in emergency funding during Covid and drivers’ median salary is £59k, staff’s is £44k.’

Talks broke down after train operators made an 11th-hour bid, offering an 8 per cent pay rise over this year and next - around the same in percentage terms as the 4.5 per cent awarded to most nurses for 2022-23. But militant RMT boss Mick Lynch rejected the offer because it is conditional on reforms such as the closure of ticket offices

Talks broke down after train operators made an 11th-hour bid, offering an 8 per cent pay rise over this year and next – around the same in percentage terms as the 4.5 per cent awarded to most nurses for 2022-23. But militant RMT boss Mick Lynch rejected the offer because it is conditional on reforms such as the closure of ticket offices

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) will walk out from 6pm on Christmas Eve until 6am on December 27 and will press ahead with two 48-hour strikes next week.

The union announced it will put the latest offer from Network Rail (NR) to its members, with a recommendation to reject.

The RMT said there had been no improved offer from the train operating companies, claiming they still awaited a mandate from the Government.

Strikes on 14 train companies will go ahead next week although talks will be held with the Rail Delivery Group on Tuesday.

Britain’s struggling pubs, restaurants and hotels will lose a ‘catastrophic’ £1.5billion in sales during the Christmas strikes, which business bosses fear will cripple the hospitality industry.

The staggering predicted losses came as Downing Street today threatened to push ahead with tough anti-strike laws after rail union chiefs snubbed the latest pay offer last night – with a Christmas of travel chaos certain.

Talks broke down after train operators made an 11th-hour bid, offering an eight per cent pay rise over this year and next – around the same in percentage terms as the 4.5 per cent awarded to most nurses for 2022-23.

But militant RMT boss Mr Lynch rejected the offer because it is conditional on reforms such as the closure of ticket offices, in a move that is set to consign millions of Britons to yet another Christmas of disruption – the third in a row, after the chaos of the coronavirus lockdowns.

Speaking this evening, Mr Lynch said: ‘The RMT union today has decided to put a new offer from Network Rail to members in an electronic referendum with a recommendation to reject the proposals from Network Rail.

‘That referendum will close on Monday, December 12, at noon. All the strike action that we’ve got planned in December will go ahead as planned, as will the action in January.

Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) announces it is calling off strikes planned for December 

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) announced it was calling off strikes planned in NR for December and is putting an offer to its members.

The TSSA had been due to strike on December 17 and take other forms of industrial action from December 13.

The union had announced that an offer from the Rail Delivery Group had been rejected, meaning industrial action at train operators would go ahead in the coming weeks.

The TSSA said on Monday that after talks with NR over the weekend, it had received a ‘best and final offer’ in writing from the company, which was considered at a meeting of its reps.

Union members will vote in the coming weeks on whether to accept the offer.

Luke Chester, TSSA organising director, said: ‘This offer is the best we can achieve through negotiation, and it was undoubtedly improved because of the ballot results and strike action taken by our members, who we applaud.

‘Our members will now have their say on this offer and we are suspending strike action.

‘Our union is pleased that this offer provides job security and certainty for Network Rail staff through to 2025 and we’re proud to have achieved a pay offer which provides for the lowest paid in the company with significant underpinning to ensure that those hardest hit by the cost-of-living crisis receive proportionately the most.

‘This offer shows what can be achieved when employers and unions are able to negotiate in good faith. It is significantly better than the offer put by the Rail Delivery Group, which we have rejected.

‘On every issue — job security, pay and conditions — the RDG offer falls short and is shackled by Government interference. They need to look at what can be achieved when negotiations are not hindered and come back to the table with an improved offer that allows us to resolve this dispute once and for all.’

The TSSA said NR had offered a minimum pay uplift of a consolidated £1,750 or a five per cent increase (whichever is greater) to the annual base rates of pay effective from January 2022, and £250 to employees who earn £24,000 a year or less.

Pay will rise by four per cent from January 2023.

NR was also offering no compulsory redundancies for general grades and controllers until January 31 2025.

Staff and their families will also get a 75 per cent discount on leisure travel and no unagreed changes to terms and conditions of employment will be made, the union said. 

‘But in addition to that, we’ve also put forward further strike action that will take place, and all members will be instructed not to book on from 1800hours on December 24 until 0600 on December 27.

‘This new phase of strike action coincides with the winddown of the passenger service on the National Rail network, and coincides with the commencement of the engineering works scheduled for that period.

‘The overtime ban that had previously been scheduled has been cancelled on Network Rail because of this new strike action. 

‘In regard to the train operating companies, there’s been no improved offer from the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) and the reason for that is because they have had no mandate from the Government.

‘The Government has not allowed any new offer to be put to us today and there is a meeting scheduled for tomorrow and we will see if the RDG on behalf of the train operating companies has got a mandate to make us an offer.’

He added: ‘At the minute we haven’t got anything that’s acceptable to us, and we feel that we’ve been compelled to take this action because of the intransigence of the Government delivered to us by the employers, on the Government’s behalf, and that we’ve got no choice.

‘What we’ve been faced with is an extremely detrimental offer, it’s very poor in relation to the pay elements and our members simply aren’t in a position — the feedback that we’ve had to accept the changes that the companies have put on the table.

‘So the action will go ahead, there will be more action during the close down period on the railway over Christmas and all the other scheduled action in the new year is going ahead.’

The union chief added: ‘We remain available for talks in order to resolve these issues but we will not bow to pressure from the employers and the government to the detriment of our members.’ 

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) announced it was calling off strikes planned in NR for December and is putting an offer to its members.

The TSSA had been due to strike on December 17 and take other forms of industrial action from December 13.

The union had announced that an offer from the Rail Delivery Group had been rejected, meaning industrial action at train operators would go ahead in the coming weeks.

The TSSA said on Monday that after talks with NR over the weekend, it had received a ‘best and final offer’ in writing from the company, which was considered at a meeting of its reps.

Union members will vote in the coming weeks on whether to accept the offer.

Luke Chester, TSSA organising director, said: ‘This offer is the best we can achieve through negotiation, and it was undoubtedly improved because of the ballot results and strike action taken by our members, who we applaud.

‘Our members will now have their say on this offer and we are suspending strike action.

‘Our union is pleased that this offer provides job security and certainty for Network Rail staff through to 2025 and we’re proud to have achieved a pay offer which provides for the lowest paid in the company with significant underpinning to ensure that those hardest hit by the cost-of-living crisis receive proportionately the most.

‘This offer shows what can be achieved when employers and unions are able to negotiate in good faith. It is significantly better than the offer put by the Rail Delivery Group, which we have rejected.

‘On every issue — job security, pay and conditions — the RDG offer falls short and is shackled by Government interference. They need to look at what can be achieved when negotiations are not hindered and come back to the table with an improved offer that allows us to resolve this dispute once and for all.’

With an offer from the Rail Delivery Group rejected, industrial action in train operators remains on the cards ‘unless progress can be made’, the union said. 

The TSSA said NR had offered a minimum pay uplift of a consolidated £1,750 or a five per cent increase (whichever is greater) to the annual base rates of pay effective from January 2022, and £250 to employees who earn £24,000 a year or less.

Pay will rise by four per cent from January 2023.

NR was also offering no compulsory redundancies for general grades and controllers until January 31 2025.

Staff and their families will also get a 75 per cent discount on leisure travel and no unagreed changes to terms and conditions of employment will be made, the union said. 

Leaders within Britain’s hospitality industry are begging unions to call-off their walkouts amid fears it will cause ‘devastating’ losses that some companies may not be able to recover from. 

Hospitality bosses have now warned that future strike action could see pubs, hotels and restaurants lose £1.5billion in sales. Pictured is a stock image of two punters enjoying a pint

Hospitality bosses have now warned that future strike action could see pubs, hotels and restaurants lose £1.5billion in sales. Pictured is a stock image of two punters enjoying a pint

Sacha Lord, chairman of the Night Time Industries Association, warned some businesses were already on the brink of collapse.

Mr Lord, who co-founded Parklife festival, told MailOnline: ‘Businesses could face catastrophic losses if these strikes go ahead. Christmas is when you can get a third of your annual turnover. To lose this would be devastating. 

‘Considering two years ago we didn’t have a Christmas because of lockdown and last year people were cancelling bookings left right and centre because of Covid, the last thing any of us need is for train strikes and the knock-on effect of more cancellations.’

And Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality – which represents the sector – added: ‘The sheer number of strike days that have affected Britain’s hospitality sector this year has been unprecedented and the strikes in December will no doubt be the toughest yet, with hospitality businesses set to lose £1.5 billion in sales. 

‘Businesses, workers and our customers will feel the brunt of it, with lost business, disrupted travel and plans being cancelled.’

Sacha Lord (pictured), chairman of the Night Time Industries Association, said many businesses could be forced to shutdown in the new year if the strikes go ahead

Sacha Lord (pictured), chairman of the Night Time Industries Association, said many businesses could be forced to shutdown in the new year if the strikes go ahead

The warning has been echoed by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), which today claimed a number of small brewers were forced to close for good this weekend following on-going strikes and soaring energy bills. 

Nik Antona, national chairman of the organisation, said: ‘Pubs, clubs, breweries and cider producers are in an impossible position, facing a perfect storm of rising costs, soaring energy bills and customers tightening their belts. 

‘While the Christmas period usually offers some relief to our beloved locals, driving footfall and sales to offset the incredibly difficult “Dry January” period, the proposed strikes may also affect pub business due to uncertainty about travelling to and from Christmas parties and family events.

‘Just this past weekend we have seen a number of small brewers calling last orders and shutting up shop, which has devastating effects on consumer choice. 

‘Pubs are cornerstones of our communities, bringing people together and helping to tackle loneliness and social isolation. We can’t risk thousands of our locals closing for good because they can’t afford to operate in the current climate.’ 

A No10 spokesman today warned it is keeping laws that would make it harder to legally call strikes under review (pictured, MPs and union officials at a rally in Westminster)

A No10 spokesman today warned it is keeping laws that would make it harder to legally call strikes under review (pictured, MPs and union officials at a rally in Westminster)

Last month it was revealed that around 50 boozers are closing every month amid soaring costs and energy bills.

At least 69 pubs closed down between January and June in England, Scotland and Wales, according to figures from the CAMRA.

However, from July to the end of September, more than 150 boozers went under as the pressures of rising costs mounted, a study by Altus Group found.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, warned the strike action would only deepen Britain’s boozer crisis.

Taking to Twitter today, she said: ‘Awful news for our industry at a critically difficult time. Week of the strikes usually the busiest of the year for our pubs. Much needed business will be lost and impact felt incredibly hard in the months that follow, we need a resolution now.’ 

The dire predictions come just days after the heads of the British Beer & Pub Association, the British Institute of Innkeeping, Night Time Industries Association and Association of Town and City Management wrote an open letter to rail union bosses, pleading them to end the strike chaos. 

Pubs across the UK have been forced to shut down as they struggling with soaring costs and energy bills. Pictured is The Bell in Shepton Mallet on July 25

Pubs across the UK have been forced to shut down as they struggling with soaring costs and energy bills. Pictured is The Bell in Shepton Mallet on July 25

They said: ‘The last three years have been a monumental struggle for the hospitality industry and this winter was already set to be the toughest yet. The prospect of strikes in such a critical phase of trading only exacerbates this. 

Winter of discontent: Met Office is the latest public body to join mass walkouts as it prepares to announce strike plans this week 

The Met Office is the latest public body to join the mass public sector walkouts, as it prepares to go on strike.

Forecasters are set to announce their backing for industrial action this week along with health and safety inspectors, chemical weapons scientists at Porton Down and experts tackling bird flu and Covid.

The government are so far unwilling to meet the demands of £28 billion inflation-matching pay rises across the public sector.  

Nadhim Zahawi, chairman of the Conservative Party, risked angering unions further yesterday when he said that nurses should accept a real-terms pay cut to ‘send a message to Putin‘.

‘Make no mistake – businesses will be forced to close their doors as a result of this and for some it may be the last time they do so. We urge you in the strongest terms to come to a settlement as soon as possible.’ 

A No10 spokesman today threatened it would change strike laws ‘if needed’ to smash the power of the unions plotting walkouts every day to December 25. 

Proposed laws include bringing in minimum-service legislation where workers are forced to ensure a certain level of services are maintained on strike days.  

However, these laws will come too little. too late for some small business owners who have been forced to cancel lucrative Christmas parties due to the strikes. 

Pub boss Charlie Baker has already seen parties and celebrations across his two sites in Hammersmith and Shoreditch in London being called off – at an estimated cost of £200,000 to the business so far.

‘Customers are generally very sorry – we’ve seen parties of up to 150 people cancelled. It’s ruining Christmas for them and they can’t do anything about it. For big companies that book these parties, if it’s logistically impossible for your workers to get there, it’s not worth shelling out money for,’ he told the BBC.  

Furious Conservative MPs accused militant unions of trying to ‘hold the country to ransom’.

Brendan Clarke-Smith told The Telegraph: ‘People should be able to go about their business and look forward to the Christmas period with their loved ones. It’s not right that they should have their festive plans ruined by the RMT trying to hold the country to ransom. They have turned the public against them with their behaviour.’

Ex-rail minister Paul Maynard added: ‘This is a Christmas catastrophe for rail passengers. Every time the RMT turns its back on the need to modernise the railway, it hammers another nail in the network’s coffin. Passengers will simply not return the longer the RMT strikes.’

While Gillian Keegan, Britain’s Education Secretary, branded the breaking down of talks between unions and rail chiefs as ‘disappointing’. 

Industry sources told the paper that the RMT leadership ‘need to cancel the strikes and to put this to their members’.

Asked whether Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wanted the RMT to put the offer to its membership, the spokesman said: ‘That fundamentally is a decision for the RMT.

Rail workers, ambulance staff, firefighters, teachers, security guards, cleaners, porters and driving examiners are also planning action that will affect every day until Christmas 

The deadline for avoiding chaos when the first round of strikes begins next Tuesday is midnight tonight (pictured, Royal Mail workers holding signs outside a Royal Mail depot)

The deadline for avoiding chaos when the first round of strikes begins next Tuesday is midnight tonight (pictured, Royal Mail workers holding signs outside a Royal Mail depot)

‘But we do think this is the right offer, it is a significant improvement on what they were offered before and we are confident it represents a good offer for their membership that provides them a significant uplift in pay and certainty they will get a further uplift the following year.’

The spokesman said the strikes could still be avoided: ‘We continue to urge the RMT to think again. There is still time.’

Mr Lynch said: ‘We have rejected this offer as it does not meet any of our criteria for securing a settlement on long-term job security, a decent pay rise and protecting working conditions. 

‘If this plan was implemented, it would not only mean the loss of thousands of jobs but the use of unsafe practices such as driver-only operated [trains] and would leave our railways chronically understaffed.’

However, the union will take more time to consider a new offer from Network Rail, which is also involved in the dispute. 

The Government-owned agency last night tabled a nine per cent salary increase for this year and next, up from eight per cent, plus a 75 per cent discount on season tickets and bonuses for lower-paid workers.

If this offer is accepted, it would drastically reduce winter disruption as Network Rail employs critical workers such as signallers. The RMT is due to make a decision today.

The deadline for avoiding chaos when the first round of strikes begins next Tuesday is midnight tonight, as staff such as drivers are rostered a week ahead. The bid already rejected by RMT is the first made by train operators since national strikes began in June; Network Rail made its first offer months ago.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the RMT’s rejection was ‘incredibly disappointing’, adding: ‘Passengers should receive the service they’ve paid for. This deal will help get trains running on time.’ 

It came as ministers confirmed they are ready to draft in up to 600 members of the Armed Forces to deal with wider winter strikes. 

Nadhim Zahawi, the Tory chairman, said the Government was considering using the military to drive ambulances, fight fires and staff borders. An extra 700 staff from the specialist Surge and Rapid Response Team, as well as 700 civil servants, are being trained for this.

Rail workers, ambulance staff, firefighters, teachers, security guards, cleaners, porters and driving examiners are also planning action that will affect every day until Christmas. 

The unions are fighting for sharp pay rises for members to reflect inflation, which is running at 11 per cent.

But government officials say this is unaffordable, and would cost the taxpayer more than £28billion.

The RMT threw the Christmas plans of millions into chaos this month by calling four 48-hour strikes between December 13 and January 7 for workers on mainline rail services in England. 

The TSSA rail union yesterday said its members for Network Rail and eight train operators will join the RMT in walkouts. 

RMT bosses had been locked in talks with government officials, Network Rail and 14 train companies represented by the Rail Delivery Group over the weekend.


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