Mark Harper tells rail strikers there is no bottomless pit of cash

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Transport Secretary Mark Harper said there is not a “bottomless pit” of cash that will cover demands for massive pay hikes. He hinted there could be a change in the negotiation strategy to find a settlement, but warned money for salary increases can only be funded if outdated working practices are ended.

Mr Harper said: “The train operating companies and Network Rail will have the ability to reach a deal.

“But we have to be able to have that reform package negotiated because it’s only that that throws up the savings.

“I do not have a bottomless pit of taxpayers’ money to throw at this problem.”

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch is threatening a series of 48-hour walks outs during the festive period that will bring the network to a halt.

The row has rumbled on for months with other unions representing train workers also staging industrial action, causing misery for train passengers across the network.

Former Conservative Party chairman Sir Jake Berry said he has “real hope” for a settlement.

He criticised former transport secretary, Grant Shapps, for making a “big mistake” by taking a “not me guv” approach to talks.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said there is “always a deal to be done”. 

“After Grant Shapps’s somewhat macho style of saying it’s nothing to do with him, we have had a change of tone from Mark Harper.

“But what the unions need to know is whether the companies have the authority to do a deal, because we know every train operating company has a clause in its contract written by the Government on dispute handling but the unions don’t know what is in it.

“They don’t know whether the companies have been empowered to actually, genuinely and in good faith, negotiate a deal, so what we want from Mark Harper is a letter to the unions setting that out.”

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