Rail union boss Mick Lynch has said the upcoming strikes will go ahead despite a “positive meeting” with transport secretary Mark Harper.
“We won’t be any closer [to calling off the strikes] until we have a reasonable offer on the table that we can put to our members,” Lynch told journalists on Thursday following his first meeting with the secretary.
“It was a positive meeting in the sense that we have got rid of the bellicose nonsense we have had from Grant Shapps.”
The RMT announced on Tuesday that over 40,000 members working at Network Rail and 14 other train operators will strike between December and January following a breakdown in negotiations with employers.
Workers will walk out on 13, 14, 16, 17 December as well as 3, 4, 6, 7 January – falling slap bang in the middle of the hospitality and retail sectors’ busiest trading period.
The industrial action will also coincide with a walkout at Royal Mail.
According to the union, negotiations have become a farce as train operators lack a mandate to negotiate workers’ terms and conditions.
“The employers say to me, I cannot negotiate because I don’t have a mandate,” Lych said.
He has now called on the secretary to “set out in writing and clarify what the authority of these people is,” as well as create a liaison forum at the ministerial level.
“It’s up to him to give us some documentation about how we’re going to carry this forward,” the union boss said.
The RMT called off a series of strikes two weeks ago, but the short notice meant mass disruption on the transport network anyway.
Transport secretary Mark Harper confirmed the positive nature of the meeting, as he stressed his role as facilitator in the discussions between operators and unions.
“We both want the dispute to end and we both want a thriving railway which delivers for passengers and workers alike,” the secretary added.
“To achieve this though, we need to work together, across the entire industry to ensure our railway industry thrives.”