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THE national rail dispute is “the fight of our lifetime,” RMT general secretary Mick Lynch told the union’s annual general meeting in Birmingham today.
Mr Lynch, who has become familiar to the public via a string of persuasive broadcast interviews, said these were the “toughest negotiations” RMT had ever been involved in.
He accused Network Rail and the train operating companies of “doing the government’s rotten business and trying to cut thousands of jobs on the railways.”
He said: “They are trying to cut thousands of jobs, and they have no scruples in cutting back on safety regimes in order to do so.
“They are seeking to rip up working practices and conditions, agreements that protect our members and, in doing so, they will drive up unsocial hours, work fatigue and occupational ill health.
“And they are seeking to make our members poor with below-inflation pay offers which do not take into account the cost-of-living crisis.”
Reflecting on the recent three days of strike action, Mr Lynch said it was normal for an employer to be a little more reasonable in talks.
However, he revealed: “Since that strike action, which was fantastic, they have not diluted their stance. At Network Rail they are ramping up their demands.
“We went to the train operator, and they put on the table that virtually every rail worker would be recontracted on a new contract of employment and a new set of terms and conditions.
“And they are going to bring back the driver-only-operated disputes in every single train operating company. They have told me that, face to face. They said it was their mandate from [the Department for Transport].
“So, this is as serious as it gets. It is the fight of our lifetime and of our generation.
“It is a myth put round by the Establishment that workers’ wages are the cause of inflation: it is the profit-making and protecting the wealth of the super-rich that is responsible for inflation,” the RMT leader charged.
“We have not got a wage-price spiral: wages are lagging a long way behind prices, and it is the job of the trade unions to ensure wages catch up.”
Remarking on his meteoric rise in the media, where he has over eight million TikTok views for the #MickLynch hashtag, the former electrician said: “We smashed it on TikTok — whatever that is.
“I was trending on Twitter and I was only knocked off by Love Island.”
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