Train Strikes: RMT Industrial Action During Eurovision Final
Passengers planning to travel by rail are currently facing significant disruptions due to a strike by RMT union members. This strike, stemming from an ongoing dispute over pay and working conditions, is affecting fourteen train companies, resulting in limited services across various lines.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper has alleged that the RMT union deliberately aimed to disrupt the Eurovision Song Contest final, scheduled to occur in Liverpool on Saturday evening. However, the RMT denies deliberately planning the strikes to coincide with the event, explaining that Saturday was chosen as the last permissible date under employment laws.
The RMT's general secretary, Mick Lynch, expressed regret for the disruption caused but stated that the union had given more than two weeks' notice,
allowing passengers ample time to make alternative travel arrangements. The government contends that the RMT has rejected a fair and reasonable pay offer, a claim the union denies.
In addition to the RMT strike, train drivers belonging to the Aslef union also went on strike recently, resulting in a complete halt of train services in some parts of England. The Aslef union denies any intention to impact the Eurovision Song Contest.
While Merseyrail, which operates trains in the Liverpool area, remains unaffected by the strikes and plans to run late-night services, most train companies traveling to and from Liverpool are operating with limited services, as confirmed by National Rail.
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), representing fourteen train companies, has advised rail
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to plan ahead and check services before traveling, emphasizing that there will be significant variations in service availability.
Amid the strikes, Rebecca Dane-Alderman shared her disappointment, as she and her best friend were unable to continue their yearly tradition of watching the Eurovision final together due to disrupted travel plans. They have opted to watch the event separately over a video call.
The RDG has offered rail workers a backdated pay rise of 5% for 2022, with a second-year increase contingent on negotiated reforms. Transport Secretary Mark Harper has called on the RMT to allow its members to vote on the RDG's offer. However, Mr. Lynch accuses the RDG of undermining the negotiations by proposing terms that would prohibit further
Mr. Lynch highlighted the strain on railway workers, mentioning extended shifts and additional workdays, asserting that they should be able to earn a living within the confines of their contractual working hours.
In a related development, train drivers affiliated with Aslef have rejected a two-year offer involving a backdated pay rise of 4% for 2022, along with a 4% increase for the current year.
While some progress has been made in resolving disputes between the rail industry and unions, such as the acceptance of a revised offer by RMT members in a separate dispute with Network Rail on March 20, further strike actions by Aslef drivers are planned for May 31 and June 3, coinciding with the FA Cup final.