Leeds train strikes: Rail services facing major disruption as last-ditch talks fail to avert industrial action by RMT

Leeds commuters face major disruption to rail services after last-ditch talks failed to resolve a bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.

By Georgina Morris
Monday, 20th June 2022, 5:08 pm
Updated Monday, 20th June 2022, 9:35 pm

Thousands of members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union at Network Rail and 13 train operators will walk out on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday in the biggest outbreak of industrial action on the railways for a generation.

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Services across the UK will start to be affected from Monday evening, with just one in five trains running on strike days, primarily on main lines and only for around 11 hours.

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Rail services in Leeds will be severely disrupted due to strike action. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Talks were held into Monday afternoon but the sides remain deadlocked over a deal.

The RMT said the train operators have now made an offer and there is no further offer from Network Rail following one which was rejected last Friday.

General secretary Mick Lynch said: "The RMT National Executive Committee has now found both sets of proposals to be unacceptable and it is now confirmed that the strike action scheduled this week will go ahead.

"It is clear that the Tory Government, after slashing £4bn of funding from National Rail and Transport for London, has now actively prevented a settlement to this dispute.

"The rail companies have now proposed pay rates that are massively under the relevant rates of inflation, coming on top of the pay freezes of the past few years.

"At the behest of the Government, companies are also seeking to implement thousands of job cuts and have failed to give any guarantee against compulsory redundancies."

It comes as Arriva Yorkshire bus services in Leeds are cancelled for a third week amid a continuing dispute over pay.

The "indefinite" walkout started on June 6 after Unite the Union took action over what they described as a "pitiful" pay offer.

From Tuesday, rail services in Leeds will be hit too as an estimated 50,000 workers are due to walk out.

Just over a third of LNER's usual trains will be running, with the final departure from Leeds to London Kings Cross being at 3.45pm.

Services will not be operating on most Northern routes, with a “very limited” number of trains on the few running lines, including those from Leeds.

Most TransPennine Express routes will see a “significant reduction” of trains, while just one CrossCountry train per hour is to run between Birmingham New Street and Manchester Piccadilly, Leicester, Leeds, York and Reading.

The RMT said rail companies were "attacking" the Railway Pension Scheme and the Transport for London scheme, diluting benefits, making staff work longer and making them poorer in retirement, while having to pay increased contributions.

The union said thousands of jobs were being cut across the rail network with no guarantee of no compulsory redundancies.

Officials also claimed working practices were being changed and disputes over the role and responsibility of the guard were being restarted.

Ticket office closures were also being planned, said the RMT.

Mr Lynch added: "Faced with such an aggressive agenda of cuts to jobs, conditions, pay and pensions, RMT has no choice but to defend our members industrially to stop this race to the bottom.

"The strikes on Network Rail, the train operators and London Underground will go ahead, and we again call on our members to stand firm, support the action, mount the pickets and demonstrate their willingness to fight for workplace justice.

"The RMT supports the campaign for a square deal for all working people in the face of the cost-of-living crisis, and our current campaign is a part of that more general campaign which means that public services have to be properly funded and all workers properly paid with good conditions."

The TUC and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) called on the Government to abandon its "unworkable" plan to lift the ban on agency workers filling in during strikes.

A joint statement from the TUC and REC said the plan was "unworkable" and they opposed it in the "strongest possible terms."

The statement said: "Using agency staff to cover strikes will only prolong the conflict between employers and their staff. Strikes are industrial disputes within a single industry or firm.

"Government needs to step up and do the work around resolving industrial disputes rather than inserting a third party in the form of agency workers into a dispute. That does nothing to solve the underlying issues between the company and their staff.

"Only recently Government ministers came out to condemn what P&O Ferries did. Surely that example cannot have been forgotten so soon?"

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: "Strikes should always be the last resort, not the first, so it is hugely disappointing and premature that the RMT is going ahead with industrial action.

"The Government committed £16bn - or £600 per household - to keep our railways running throughout the pandemic while ensuring not a single worker lost their job.

"The railway is still on life support, with passenger numbers 25 per cent down and anything that drives away even more of them risks killing services and jobs.

"Train travel for millions more people is now a choice, not a necessity. Strikes stop our customers choosing rail, and they might never return.

"We urge the RMT to reconsider so we can find a solution that delivers for workers, passengers and taxpayers alike."

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "We have repeatedly urged the RMT not to go ahead with these damaging strikes and instead focus their energy on getting round the negotiating table and coming to an agreement with Network Rail.

"Sadly they have ignored these requests time and again, and we are now on the cusp of major disruption which will cause misery for people right across the country.

"Many people who do not get paid if they can't get to work face losing money at a time they simply can't afford to. Children sitting exams will face the extra distraction of changing their travel plans. And vulnerable people trying to attend long-awaited hospital appointments may have no choice but to cancel.

"By carrying out this action, the RMT is punishing millions of innocent people, instead of calmly discussing the sensible and necessary reforms we need to make in order to protect our rail network."