Talks between rail union TSSA and industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) broke down this afternoon (Tuesday) following an admission by the RDG that they have no authority from government to discuss pay or grading. Calling the breakdown a “slap in the face for rail workers and passengers”, TSSA is now considering strike action for December.
The RDG is acting on behalf of train operators, and intensive talks between unions and the RDG are in their fourth week. Progress has been made on issues covering modernisation, staffing, job security and ticket offices, but when the subject turned to pay and grading, the RDG said today “we have no mandate from the Department for Transport to discuss this with unions.” Pay is a central plank of the current rail dispute.
Luke Chester, TSSA Organising Director, said: “Mark Harper needs to get his story straight and act now to prevent strikes over Christmas. Today’s breakdown in talks is a slap in the face for rail workers and passengers alike and is setting the industry on course for a disastrous Christmas.
“We’re fed up with being told one thing by politicians and then hear the opposite in negotiations. Harper says he and his department haven’t blocked anything. But we’ve yet again hit a government-shaped brick wall in talks where the authority to discuss the key issues in this dispute is withheld by ministers.
“We’ve kept our part of the bargain – suspending industrial action for all of November and acting in good faith in intensive negotiations. We’ve just had that thrown back in our face from a government that either doesn’t understand how the railway operates, or simply doesn’t care about resolving this dispute.
“This is crunch week. If an offer isn’t on the table this week then it’s too late to pull back services and maintenance works over December. Our union is actively looking at industrial action for December following today’s breakdown in talks. The ball is firmly in the government’s court.”