Rail workers have entered the second half of their latest 48-hour strike – as the business secretary says he is hopeful that a resolution can be found “sooner rather than later”.
Grant Shapps was speaking to Sky News as members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union prepared for another day of industrial action in their long-running dispute over pay and conditions.
He said: “We certainly don’t want to see the strikes take place, they don’t help anybody.
“We do think there are some reasonable pay deals on the table…when it comes to trains, there’s an offer there on the table of some 8-9% depending on the particular area people are in, in return for modernisations.
“So we don’t think these strikes are necessary.
“We certainly want to see people being able to get around this Christmas and I very much hope to see (strikes) come to an end sooner rather than later.”
On Friday, RMT chief Mick Lynch told Sky News that he was “always optimistic” that a resolution could be found in the dispute, despite a lack of progress so far.
He said: “Resolutions to disputes are about compromises.
“We understand what the companies want and they understand what we need.
“So we need some compromise on some of the conditions they’re putting on the offer and we’ll need an improvement in the pay offer.
“That is achievable, in my view.”
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The union is involved in two disputes – one with Network Rail, where it represents around 20,000 signallers and maintenance workers, and the other with the Rail Delivery Group, where it represents about 20,000 workers at 14 train companies.
Members of both groups will strike today, and then on 3-4 January and 6-7 January, with RMT members at Network Rail also striking from 6.30pm on Christmas Eve until 6am on 27 December.
Passengers have been warned not to travel on the railways today unless absolutely necessary.
Meanwhile, Unite union members at bus company Abellio will continue to strike, affecting parts of central, south and west London.
And until midnight, highways workers will strike in the north west, north east, and Yorkshire, with other parts of England to be affected in the coming weeks.
National Highways has said it has plans in place to deal with any problems.
Next week all eyes will be on the NHS, with ambulance workers and nurses planning to strike over pay.
Nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will walk off the job for the second time on Tuesday, and ambulance crews will follow the next day.