Both the unions and the train operators need to compromise to bring the ongoing railway strikes to an end, according to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.
“Both sides need to compromise, both sides need to finish the negotiations and the government needs to drive them forward,” Starmer told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
“The government’s been sitting on its hands on this. That’s not good enough.”
The RMT declined to comment.
Starmer’s comments come as the upcoming strikes will still go on after the union RMT yesterday rejected an eight per cent pay increase.
The RMT instead called for the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) – which is negotiating on behalf of train operators – to meet today.
According to RDG, the offer was “fair and affordable” as it would provide workers with an increased salary early in the new year as well as job security until April 2024.
It also includes reforms to put the industry on a “sustainable long-term footing.”
Union bosses rejected the proposal as it didn’t meet “any of our criteria for securing a settlement on long term job security, a decent pay rise and protecting working conditions.”
“The RDG and DfT who sets their mandate, both knew this offer would not be acceptable to RMT members,” said RMT’s general secretary Mick Lynch.
Lynch had previously said that the upcoming December and January strikes would not be called off until a good enough offer was received.
The walkouts – taking place on 13, 14, 16, 17 December as well as 3, 4, 6, 7 January – will fall on the busiest trading period for both the hospitality and retail sectors, impacting thousands of businesses.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, tweeted that the RMT’s rejection of the pay increase was “absolutely devastating news for hospitality.”
According to Nicholls, the walkout will cost the industry £1.5bn in lost sales.
Transport secretary Mark Harper – who will appear on Wednesday in front of the Commons’ transport select committee – called the situation “incredibly disappointing, and unfair to the public, passengers and the rail workforce who want a deal.”