Transport secretary Mark Harper has reaffirmed his role of facilitator in the railway negotiations.
Harper wrote to general secretary Mick Lynch saying he saw a way forward “to meet everyone’s needs” and put an end to the rail dispute, especially after last week’s “constructive and positive” meeting.
“By modernising working practices, we can deliver the savings that lower post-Covid passenger numbers require, restore financial sustainability and not place an unfair burden on taxpayers,” the secretary wrote.
“My role is to facilitate and support – not negotiate.”
The remarks come as the secretary told journalists on Sunday that increasing workers’ salaries to match inflation rates was simply “unaffordable.”
Nevertheless, Harper today said talks could be speeding up with better information sharing between rail minister Huw Merriman, unions and rail operators.
“I want to work with you and employers in good faith to help resolve these long-standing issues, and help the employers and you reach a resolution that is fair to all,” Harper concluded.
The letter comes less than a week after Mick Lynch called on Harper to “set out in writing and clarify” what kind of negotiating power rail operators had.
According to the union, negotiations have become a farce because companies 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 on Thursday.
Strikes set for mid-December and early January are still set to go on – disrupting the hospitality and retail industries’ busiest trading period.
The union has yet to comment on the letter.