Express & Star

RMT suspends next week's rail strikes to delight of Wolverhampton economy chief

The RMT has suspended planned strikes on March 30 and April 1 as the union edges closer to settling two long-running disputes.

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RMT strikers at Wolverhampton

Rail passengers and businesses will be relieved the rail network will not be brought to a standstill for another two days and the potential deal has been welcomed by Wolverhampton's cabinet member for the economy.

RMT announced the strikes suspension after a new offer by the Rail Delivery Group, which represents several major players in the industry, concerning pay, jobs and conditions.

On Monday RMT members voted to accept an Network Rail offer in a similar dispute which crippled Christmas shopping days for local businesses.

Wolverhampton Council's cabinet member for the city economy, Councillor Stephen Simkins, welcomed the suspension of industrial action.

He told the Express & Star: "I am delighted next week's strikes have been averted which will mean people will be able to get into the city.

"But more importantly I am happy the RMT and rail bosses have finally sorted their disagreement out. Long-running strikes affect everyone badly, from the strikers losing pay to everyone else who rely on the services."

He added: "A lot of work will need to be done to build it back up again and to get people to trust travelling by train again. For a city like Wolverhampton which is trying to become an entertainment destination then it is vital all public transport is working well."

Owner of the The Garrison pub in Birmingham, Thomas O'Rourke, is happy the rail disputes are almost over but rues the lost trade caused by the six-month long disputes.

He said: "So many businesses rely on those weeks approaching Christmas to make up for a quiet January but the rail strikes wrecked that for so many pubs. With bills rising and customers not being able to get to the pubs it was one of the worst Decembers ever.

"This dispute should never have lasted so long."

The new offer, shown to union leaders at a meeting this afternoon (Wednesday) led to the suspension of the strikes which would have hit the night time economies of Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Telford and Shropshire during a traditional "payday weekend".

A Rail Delivery Group spokesperson said: "We welcome this positive step by the leadership of the RMT to call off their planned action on March 30 and April 1. This is great news for our customers and for our staff.

"We are now jointly focused on working constructively towards a settlement to this dispute, which will mean we can do what we have always wanted to do - give our people a pay rise and help secure the long-term future of the railway with rewarding careers for all those who work on it."

An RMT statement said: "Following further talks between RMT and the Rail Delivery Group today, a proposal was tabled by the RDG which could lead to a resolution to resolve the current national rail dispute through a new offer. The NEC has therefore suspended strike action scheduled for March 30 and April 1.

"RMT will have further talks with the RDG with a view to securing a new offer on pay, job security and working conditions.

"The dispute remains on and the union will continue to make preparations for a reballot when the current mandate runs out in mid-May."