Three 24-hour strikes by railway workers scheduled for the coming week have been called off, the RMT union has announced, saying it will now enter “a period of intensive negotiations” with Network Rail and rail operators.
The news came as Royal Mail and the CWU union agreed to a week of intensive talks in an attempt to resolve a pay and change dispute that has prompted postal workers to call two 48-hour strikes, starting on 24 and 30 November.
A Royal Mail spokesperson said: “Royal Mail and CWU recognise that it is crucial to the future of the company and the long-term job security of its employees that we reach agreement to resolve the current pay and change disputes.
“There will now be an intensive period of negotiations on all aspects of pay and change, facilitated by Acas, from Monday 7 November to Tuesday 15 November.”
The RMT union revealed on Friday afternoon that three days of 24-hour industrial action by thousands of its members at Network Rail, mostly signalling staff, due to take place on Saturday 5, Monday 7 and Wednesday 9 November on lines across the country would no longer go ahead.
Nevertheless, the RMT confirmed that a strike by its members on London Underground and Overground would still be going ahead on Thursday 10 November. Transport for London has advised passengers to avoid travelling on the tube on that day, and said services on the overground would be reduced.
Tim Shoveller, Network Rail’s chief negotiator, said he was pleased that the national rail industrial action had been cancelled but added it was too late to prevent services on Saturday and Monday from being affected.
“The very late notice means that services for tomorrow cannot be reinstated and will remain extremely limited, and while we, and our train company partners, will work without pause over the weekend, there will be limited ability to change the ‘strike timetable’ for Monday,” Shoveller said.
He added: “We look forward to getting back round the table with all our trades unions early next week to see if the progress made this week can be built on, and a resolution found.”
The RMT’s general secretary, Mick Lynch, said the threat of strike action and the strength of the union’s campaign had “made the rail employers see sense”.
He added: “We have always wanted to secure a negotiated settlement and that is what we will continue to push for in this next phase of intensive talks. Our priority is our members, and we are working towards securing a deal on job security, a decent pay rise and good working conditions.
“Our re-ballot remains live and if we have to take strike action during the next six months to secure a deal, we will.”
The union said it had secured “unconditional talks” with Network Rail and the promise of a pay offer from the train operating companies.
The rail operator Southeastern said it welcomed the suspension of the strike and was “working hard to understand what services we can run on those dates”.
The smaller TSSA union had been due to strike on the same days, but this week called off its planned action at Network Rail to facilitate further talks.
The transport secretary, Mark Harper, who this week said he would be “very happy” to meet union leaders, said the cancelled strikes were a “positive development for passengers up and down the country”.
He added: “It’s crucial unions and employers continue their discussions and work together to reach a solution.”
Rail users face the threat of more rail strikes at the end of November as the executive committee of Aslef, which represents train drivers, meets next week to decide whether to carry out further industrial action.
Aslef and the RMT are also balloting members for a further strike mandate for the next six months – with the potential for more industrial action until July 2023.
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