Harper: ‘Re-offer’ on table in final talks to avert further rail strikes

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said a “re-offer” would be on the table at the crunch talks to avert further rail strikes.

Officials from the Rail Delivery Group, representing railway companies, will meet with the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union and the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) on Thursday in a renewed attempt to break the deadlock.

Mick Whelan, general secretary of the Aslef train drivers’ union, told the Commons Transport Select Committee on Wednesday there was “zero” chance of a solution.

But Mr Harper later said that was “unfair” as the situation had “moved on”.

I am confident that we will make some progress in the coming daysMark Harper, Secretary of Transport

He told ITV’s Peston: “I’m confident that now that there’s a re-offer on the table this (a deal) can happen and we’ve seen confirmation today.

“The evidence presented to the Transport Select Committee shows that discussions are taking place between various unions and the companies and I am confident that we will make some progress in the coming days.”

Rail union leaders launched a vehement attack on the government when testifying before the committee, accusing ministers of fueling bitter disputes over jobs, wages and working conditions and blocking agreements to settle the dispute.

Former Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has been criticized by officials from three unions.

Mick Lynch, RMT general secretary, said the longstanding conflict was “made up” by the Department for Transport (DfT).

“This is Shapps’ project – the argument has been left for the rest of us to sort out,” he told MPs.

Mr Whelan was asked to rate how close the situation was to resolution on a scale of one to ten.

He replied: “I think you can include zero. We are further away than when we started.”

Mr Whelan also criticized the way the Rail Delivery Group made a bid last Friday afternoon, saying it was leaked first to parts of the media and contained details that had “smashed” agreements with the union.

Mr Lynch added: “We have no agreement. Until we reach an agreement, we’re not close to that.”

He said nine clauses were added to an offer made last month, describing it as “sabotage” and blaming the DfT.

Mr. Lynch and Mr. Whelan made it clear that their unions would never accept a driver-only operation (DOO) on the railroad.

The RMT chief told the committee that “a lot of damage” had been done to the railway because of the government.

“The damage is designed and controlled in the Ministry of Transport.

“This is their project, they knew there was going to be an industrial reaction from the unions, they decided to take what they thought was a big leap forward and to provoke the workforce and attack the workforce.”

He claimed that the DfT has a “Stalinist obsession with centralized control,” adding, “What we get from the DfT is provocations — provocations in the language and also in the documents.”

Rail Delivery Group’s Steve Montgomery told the committee talks with Aslef were “further behind” than the other unions, but added further talks will be held on Thursday to reach an agreement.

He said the group must “ask permission” from the government before making any offers to settle the dispute.

Network Rail chief negotiator Tim Shoveller gave the progress in resolving the dispute with the RMT a seven out of ten after an offer was rejected last month.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Far from delaying negotiations, this government is determined to help unions and employers reach an agreement and avoid further strikes, while enacting much-needed reforms affecting our railways.” on a sustainable financial basis future.

“The industry has offered fair and reasonable wage offers and to facilitate progress, the government has held meetings between all parties to end this damaging dispute.”

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/uk/harper-renewed-offer-on-table-at-latest-talks-to-avert-further-rail-strikes-42280001.html Harper: ‘Re-offer’ on table in final talks to avert further rail strikes

Linh

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