RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said “there’s a long way to go yet” in rail company talks, because proposals would be “very difficult to take on board” for rail workers.
A third day of walkouts is taking place on Saturday, with an estimated 80 per cent of rail services not running and no sign of an end to the dispute.
Mr Lynch said of the talks with rail bosses: “They’ve given us a lot of detail about what they want from what they might call the new modern railway. What we don’t know is how our members are going to respond to that.
“We hear a lot of the changes they want to make, but when they hear it our members will find a lot of the changes very difficult to take on board. So we’ll have to see what the complete package is and then we’ll have to go to our people and consult them in detail to see if they want to accept it.
“There’s a long way to go yet. But most of the stuff that our members voted very heavily in favour for action about are what’s on the table now, and they’ve not diluted very much,” he told Sky News.
He said issues yet to be resolved included “severe changes to our members’ terms and conditions, they do want to cut thousands of jobs, they want to recontract virtually everyone that works on the railway on a set of terms and conditions and pay that is lower than we currently have, and that in some ways is a form of fire and rehire”.
He added: “They’re saying we either have to adapt and adopt these new practices, or we will lose our jobs in greater numbers than even we thought, so there is still that constant threat to us of mass job losses… new contracts of employment and new working practices, which will be detrimental to our people. And we still haven’t got any offer that’s suitable on pay.”
Mr Lynch has not ruled out further strike action this summer and said the RMT would decide after discussions next week.
Responding to a statement by Network Rail about the progress of talks, he said: “We’ve got to be very cautious about what they call progress.
“They may be progressing their agenda, but it doesn’t mean that our members are going to accept those changes just because the company wants them, so we’ve got to work that problem through with them.”
He added: “So unless we get a lot of movement provided by the government and the companies can change their stance, there will be more action, yes.”
He continued: “We’ve not named dates. We’re going to review where we are in the discussions next week, and then we will decide if we need to take more action.
“We have to get two weeks’ notice of strikes anyway, that’s the legislation, so there won’t be any strikes in the next couple of weeks – but we’ll decide that. But we won’t hesitate to use more industrial action if we can’t reach an agreement or if the companies carry through their threats to make people redundant.”