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‘As things stand, the strikes are on’: Rail minister confirms train driver walkouts will likely go ahead

‘As things stand, the strikes are on’: Rail minister confirms train driver walkouts will likely go ahead

Two days of upcoming train driver strikes are unlikely to be averted, according to the rail minister.

Two weeks before the next round of national strikes begins, Huw Merriman confirmed that the prime minister has been actively involved in pay offers made to trades unions.

Mr Merriman told MPs on the Transport Select Committee: “The taxpayer is largely funding these pay increases.

“We have to look at what teachers are being given, what nurses are being given as well.

“We have to look across and that is why No 10 is rightly involved in these discussions.”

On Tuesday the train drivers’ union, Aslef, announced further strikes by its members working for 15 train operators on 1 and 3 February.

Mr Merriman said leaders of Aslef have been invited to talks by the rail minister in a bid to avert the coming industrial action. But he conceded: “As things stand, the strikes are on.”

Most rail services across Britain are likely to be cancelled.

Train drivers have been offered 4 per cent pay rises for each of 2022 and 2023, contingent on changes to working practices.

The minister said the current offer would take the average train driver’s pay to £65,000.

Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, told BBC Today: “We’re working for companies that are making profits and paying dividends to shareholders, who’ve done a rather corrupt and immoral deal with the government to say they won’t offer us a pay rise.

“The reality is, we’ve been trapped in a cycle of disruption for two-and-a-half decades that we need to get out of.”

Last week Mr Whelan told the same committee: “There is not one line in that deal, from the opening comments to the final full stop, that I can recommend because the deal basically says we basically rip up every agreement we have, local and national, forever and a day.”

Separately, Mr Merriman said talks between Network Rail, the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) and the RMT union are in “detailed stages”.

“I’m really hopeful those talks will lead to a settlement.”

Since June 2022 members of the RMT union working for Network Rail have staged strikes on 20 days.

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