Mick Lynch Claims Government 'Wanted' Rail Strikes To Go Ahead

"If anyone says that's not the case, they are not telling you the truth," the RMT boss told MPs.
RMT leader Mick Lynch
RMT leader Mick Lynch
Parliament TV

Mick Lynch today claimed that the government wanted the Christmas rail strikes to take place and that they deliberately “sabotaged” talks.

The general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union [RMT] said the government’s response to pay demands had been “choreographed”.

He was one of a number of rail union bosses who were quizzed by MPs on the Commons’ Transport Committee.

The union leaders painted a bleak picture of the prospects of a deal, with one admitting: “We’re further away than when we started.”

Talks broke down at the end of last year sparking widespread strikes across the Christmas period.

Ministers came back to the Commons this week with controversial legislation to curb the impact of strikes which has infuriated unions.

Lynch told MPs: “The whole thing has been prearranged, it’s almost as if there’s been some kind of stage director running this dispute.

“That’s why we couldn’t make any progress before Christmas. Even though I know the companies wanted to, they wanted to come to us with developed proposals but they were not allowed to by the Department for Transport.

“If anyone says that’s not the case, they are not telling you the truth. I’ll put that on the record, they have stopped the development of proposals deliberately at every stage in this dispute.”

The union boss claimed the government insisted on the widespread expansion of driver-only operation [DOO] of train services in the negotiations between the RMT and Rail Delivery Group.

Lynch said: “Why would you, if you’re seeking a solution to a serious industrial dispute that’s high profile, wait until a Sunday afternoon at four o’clock to put nine clauses into the document which weren’t in the previous version?

“It’s daft. To me it’s sabotage. They wanted these strikes to go ahead.

“They brought forward stage-managed releases in the last week about minimum service levels, about disruption and all the rest of it about me and various other people in the industry. All primed through certain press outlets.

“The whole thing has been completely stage-managed, leading up to Monday’s sessions with the trade unions, as far as I can see.

“It’s deliberate torpedoing of the talks which could have developed. That’s why DOO is in there. Not because it would have helped resolve the dispute.”

Asked to say how close on a scale of one to 10 is a resolution to industrial disputes, Mick Whelan general secretary of the Aslef train drivers’ union replied: “I think you can include zero. We’re further away than when we started.”

The RMT’s Lynch added: “We haven’t got an agreement. Until we get an agreement we’re not close to it.”

Whelan claimed the government’s handling of rail disputes was “ideological” while Lynch claimed there was an attempt to “defund” public services.

Lynch told MPs the union held discussions with Network Rail on Tuesday and will meet the Rail Delivery Group on Thursday.


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