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Mick Lynch: Talks with new transport secretary ‘a good start’

The rail union leader says he is “more optimistic” about a breakthrough under a new transport secretary.

Image source, PA Media

The head of the RMT union has said talks with the new transport secretary were a “good start” in attempts to solve issues that have led to crippling strikes on the railways.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan held talks with Mick Lynch and Aslef’s Mick Whelan last week, days after getting the job.

It represents a change of approach from her predecessor, Grant Shapps, who refused to meet union leaders.

But Mr Lynch warned: “We have got to see some concrete change.”

Ms Trevelyan invited Mr Lynch and Mr Whelan for introductory talks as one of her first actions as transport secretary.

She also praised the rail unions for calling off strikes during the mourning period after the death of Queen Elizabeth II. A meeting with the TSSA union, which also represents rail workers, is expected soon.

‘Pleasant meeting’

Mr Lynch said the rail unions had not been invited for talks with a government minister for many years, and he hoped Ms Trevelyan would be “astute” enough to continue the dialogue.

“That’s a good start but we have got to see some concrete change… allowing the companies to negotiate freely, on a free collective bargaining basis.”

He told the BBC: “It was a very pleasant meeting. She enabled me to download into her, in effect, everything that is wrong with our transport system and the railways in particular.

“That’s a good start but we have got to see some concrete change… allowing the companies to negotiate freely, on a free collective bargaining basis.”

Image source, PA Media

More strikes were announced last week – which were criticised by the government.

The Department for Transport said: “We urge union bosses to reconsider this divisive action and instead work with their employers, not against them, to agree a new way forward.”

The RMT’s 40,000 members, who include guards and signalling staff, will walk out on 1 October, the day before the Conservative conference in Birmingham.

They will be joined by members of train drivers’ union Aslef and members of the TSSA at Network Rail and 11 train operating companies.

‘Locked out’

Further strikes are planned on 5 and 8 October, in a long-running and bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.

Unions have said there will not be a breakthrough unless the government gives rail companies more leeway in talks.

When he was transport secretary, Mr Shapps said he was not the right person to get involved in negotiations.

There is no sign Ms Trevelyan will get directly involved in negotiations either.

Mr Lynch added: “I am more optimistic than I was under Grant Shapps, but anybody would be.”

He said it was “better to have face-to-face dialogue than to be locked out of the room”.

Mr Lynch also criticised plans to introduce new laws to ensure a minimum service level during strikes and to require union leaders to put pay offers to members – unveiled by Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng on Friday.

“There are mixed messages coming out. Maybe it’s ‘good cop, bad cop’. We have got to negotiate our way through that.”

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