National rail strike talks reach deadlock

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The Independent Online
TALKS aimed at averting next Friday's national strike by nearly 90,000 rail workers ended in deadlock yesterday.

Leaders of the industry's two main unions left British Rail's headquarters in London predicting that the campaign of 24-hour stoppages, which began last Friday, would go ahead.

At one stage yesterday it seemed that settlement of the dispute between BR and the Rail Maritime and Transport union was possible, but they were unable to find a 'form of words' to satisfy both sides.

The RMT is seeking a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies and an assurance that contractors will not be enlisted to undertake 'traditional' railway work. Jimmy Knapp, leader of the union, described the talks as 'lengthy but unproductive'.

Earlier, Derrick Fullick, general secretary of the train drivers' union Aslef, said after separate talks: 'I would stick my neck out and say that I cannot imagine my executive committee will reverse their decision on this basis.' Around 55 per cent of train drivers have voted to take action over redundancies and to preserve their employment conditions when services are offered to franchise companies.

Paul Watkinson, BR's director of personnel, said the RMT was still demanding jobs for life. 'We've gone a long way to agreeing with them that compulsory redundancy is unlikely if people are prepared to be flexible,' he said.

Leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers yesterday decided to stage their second strike next Friday to coincide with the rail disruption. Drivers and conductors employed by London Bus, who joined last Friday's stoppage, agreed to defer further disruption over pay cuts.