Rail union leaders have offered a glimmer of hope surrounding strikes over the summer months after revealing talks had taken place since a ballot was announced.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union overwhelmingly backed industrial action regarding pay, conditions and jobs but leaders say negotiations have restarted in recent days.
Employees at over a dozen train operators including LNER, Transpennine Express and Avanti West Coast voted in favour of walkouts, threatening to bring parts of the UK’s rail network to a standstill.
Drivers represented by the Aslef union in Scotland have already refused to work overtime and on rest days in a bitter dispute over pay – forcing the cancellation of hundreds of services.
Members are now considering a revised pay increase of 4.2% to bring chaos on routes across the country to an end and RMT colleagues are also said to be “participating in discussions” with network operators to reach a resolution.
Transport minister Jenny Gilruth has been criticised for failing to put a contingency plan in place should the pay offer be rejected.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said “no agreement had been reached” as yet, adding “active preparations for a sustained campaign of industrial action” continued to be made.
He said: “Since the ballot results on May 24, discussions have been taking place at industry-wide level under the auspices of the Rail Industry Recovery Group (RIRG) to create a framework and structure for negotiations on all issues in the dispute.
“RMT has today agreed to continue these discussions in order to create a framework for negotiations on all aspects of the dispute.
“The matter will be considered again by the RMT NEC (executive) on June 7 when we will consider how to develop our campaign, including the issue of setting dates for phases of industrial action.”
Football fans’ plans were thrown into chaos last night when ScotRail initially announced no additional trains after Scotland’s World Cup qualifying play-off semi-final meeting with Ukraine – only to revise that decision hours later.
Gilruth told the PA news agency she believed ScotRail had made a “good offer” and that getting a resolution was “absolutely essential”.
However, Conservative MSP Graham Simpson accused her of failing to plan an alternative to the “carnage” on the line over the weekend – when more than 300 trains were cancelled.
He said: “Even if Aslef recommends that members accept the deal tomorrow, it will take three weeks to ballot them – that’s nearly a month of disruption to start with.
“It was carnage on the railways at the weekend. On Sunday, 320 services were cancelled and there may be more this Sunday.
“We’re in this mess because drivers don’t want to work their rest days – and why should they?”